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With summer here, you might be thinking about pulling out your bike from underneath all the garage clutter and hitting the pavement. Whether you ride for fun or for competition, you need to know how to prevent injuries that bicyclists commonly experience.
1. Use proper protective clothing and safety equipment. There is nothing worse than riding your bike without a helmet. If you fall off, a helmet can reduce head injury by 60 percent and severe brain injury by 75 percent. Also, wear protective eyewear. Eyewear protects you not only from the sun's radiation, but from irritants and flying objects that can potentially be hazardous to maintaining control of your bike. If you ride your bicycle frequently, you may experience some discomfort from sitting on your bike cushion. By purchasing seat pads or a padded bike seat, you can reduce your risk of saddle sores or chafing.
2. Make sure your bike fits you. Many common biking injuries are caused by improper adjustments on the bicycle. For instance, some bicyclists experience "cyclist's palsy," which is the gradual onset of numbness, tingling and/or weakness in the ring and little fingers. By adjusting the handlebars properly to achieve minimal force at the wrist, you can help prevent this condition. Wearing padded gloves can also help prevent this palsy.
Some riders experience "cyclist's knee," which is pain experienced on the front of the knee. There are many causes, including overly aggressive hill climbing or pedaling big gears, but another reason could be that your seat is situated too low or too far forward. To make sure your seat is adjusted correctly, take your inseam measurement (while wearing your cycling shoes) and multiply by 1.06 inches. This should be the distance from the top of the seat to the top of the pedal when the pedal is situated at the bottom and centered.
3. Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen. Due to rapid sweat evaporation when bicycling, it is easy to underestimate your hydration needs. Always keep at least two 20-ounce bottles of water with you. Also, it is easy to forget, but when you are out riding in the nice, sunny weather, you should wear sunscreen. Common areas that receive a lot of sun exposure are the arms, thighs and lips. Now that you know how to prevent common biking injuries, you're ready to go find your favorite trail and pedal away. Enjoy the ride!
KENNETH CAYCE, MD
MAX Sports Medicine
Member of the OhioHealth Sports Medicine Institute