Mountain Biking

01 Overview

Mountain biking, riding specially-designed bicycles off-road and over rough terrain, is a popular sport in British Columbia. The most popular styles of mountain biking are cross-country and trail riding; other styles include all-mountain, downhill, dirt jumping, and freeride. Common areas of injury are the face, leg, and arms.

(see Section 04 - Prevention)
Athlete silhouette
View Common Injuries by clicking the blue dots on the silhouette

There is a high risk of injury to the arms, including fractures, dislocations, abrasions, contusions, and sprains. These often occur from attempting to protect the face during a fall.

Injuries to the liver and spleen occur with forward-facing bar extensions due to an impact of the abdomen on the handlebars.

The lower leg is the most frequently injured area in mountain biking (27% of injuries). Most of these injuries result from slipping off the pedals on bumpy parts of the trail or after landing a jump. Lower leg injuries also occur when the leg is entangled in trees, bushes, or obstacles on the trail.

Shoulder fractures can occur in mountain biking.

Mountain bikers are at high risk of facial trauma, including injury to the mouth.

Head injuries, including concussion, lacerations, abrasions, contusions, and head or neck fracture, can occur in mountain biking.

Neck injuries include muscle strains and fractures. These injuries are often under-reported.

Friction against the bicycle seat can result in injuries when mountain biking, including chafing and “saddle sores.”

02 Injury Statistics

Most injuries in mountain biking are mild, but a variety of injuries can occur. Approximately 27% of injuries occur to the lower leg, 25% to the forearm, and 21% to the knee. Mountain bikers are at a much higher risk of fractures, dislocations, and concussions compared to on-road bikers.

Curious about the research on injuries?

It is estimated that...

03 Risk Factors

Risk factors for mountain bike injuries include: riding errors, lack of upper body strength, poor trail conditions, and competition.

  • Riding Errors

    Approximately 70% of injured bikers reported riding error as the primary cause of injury. Most injuries happened in a curve, during jumps, and on sloping terrain.

  • Upper Body Strength

    A lack of upper body strength in young, untrained bikers is a risk factor for injury.

  • Competition vs. Practice

    There is a higher risk of injury during mountain biking competitions as compared to practice.

  • Behaviour

    A lack of attention, loss of control, indecisiveness, and overestimation of biking ability are risk factors for injuries in mountain biking.

  • Trail Conditions

    Poor trail conditions are a risk factor for injury in mountain biking.

04 How can I prevent injury?

Some muscle soreness or joint pain is expected when increasing your level of physical activity. It is important to listen to your body for persistent or worsening pain, and to know when to rest. Learn more about how to prevent injuries in mountain biking.

  • Participant & Parent

    Talk to your coach or organization, if applicable, about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Lack of upper body strength is a risk for injury in young, untrained bikers.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of shoulder injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions can happen due to a fall or collision while mountain biking. It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for participants and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Equipment
    Using properly fitted protective personal equipment while mountain biking, such as helmets, body armour, and mouthguards, can reduce your risk of injury. Helmets can reduce your risk of skull fracture and traumatic brain injury. The use of lower limb body armour can reduce your risk of injury in this area.

    Some riders use “bar ends”—forward-facing handlebar extensions—for comfort; however, collision with these bar extensions can result in abdominal and internal organ injuries, such as liver hematoma. An education campaign on the dangers of using “bar ends” has resulted in the near elimination of liver injury in mountain biking in Austria.

    Education
    Before taking up mountain biking, obtain training, understand how injuries occur, ride within the level of your capability, and know how dismount safely from the bike.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Mountain biking is physically demanding and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Coach & Teacher

    Talk to your organization or school, if applicable, about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Lack of upper body strength is a risk for injury in young, untrained bikers.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of shoulder injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions can happen due to a fall or collision while mountain biking. It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for participants and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Equipment
    Using properly fitted protective personal equipment while mountain biking, such as helmets, body armour, and mouthguards, can reduce your risk of injury. Helmets can reduce your risk of skull fracture and traumatic brain injury. The use of lower limb body armour can reduce your risk of injury in this area.

    Some riders use “bar ends” — forward-facing handlebar extensions — for comfort; however, collision with these bar extensions can result in abdominal and internal organ injuries, such as liver hematoma. An education campaign on the dangers of using “bar ends” has resulted in the near elimination of liver injury in mountain biking in Austria.

    Education
    Before taking up mountain biking, your bikers should have training, understand how injuries occur, ride within the level of their capability, and know how dismount safely from the bike.

    Facilities
    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides recommendations for implementing mountain biking in secondary schools.

    Learn more about adding mountain biking to your school program.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Mountain biking is physically demanding and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Official & Administrator

    Talk to your coaches, teachers, organization, or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Managing Concussion

    Concussions can happen due to a fall or collision while mountain biking. It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to diagnose and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to assess a potential concussion, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Lack of upper body strength is a risk for injury in young, untrained bikers.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of shoulder injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Facilities
    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides recommendations for implementing mountain biking in secondary schools.

    Learn more about adding mountain biking to your school program.

    Equipment
    Using properly fitted protective personal equipment while mountain biking, such as helmets, body armour, and mouthguards, can reduce your risk of injury. Helmets can reduce your risk of skull fracture and traumatic brain injury. The use of lower limb body armour can reduce your risk of injury in this area.

    Some riders use “bar ends” — forward-facing handlebar extensions — for comfort; however, collision with these bar extensions can result in abdominal and internal organ injuries, such as liver hematoma. An education campaign on the dangers of using “bar ends” has resulted in the near elimination of liver injury in mountain biking in Austria.

    Education
    Before taking up mountain biking, your bikers should have training, understand how injuries occur, ride within the level of their capability, and know how dismount safely from the bike.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Mountain biking is physically demanding and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Health Professional

    The role of health professionals in preventing mountain biking injuries has two main components:

    1. Providing ongoing education to participants, parents, and coaches on effective injury prevention programs such as balance and resistance training; and
    2. Ensuring that injured participants are completely healed and fit-to-perform before returning to mountain biking to prevent re-injury or chronic injury.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to diagnose and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to assess a potential concussion, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Lack of upper body strength is a risk for injury in young, untrained bikers.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of shoulder injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Mountain biking is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information about preparticipation physical evaluation.

    Learn more about Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.

    Equipment
    Using properly fitted protective personal equipment while mountain biking, such as helmets, body armour, and mouthguards, can reduce your risk of injury. Helmets can reduce your risk of skull fracture and traumatic brain injury. The use of lower limb body armour can reduce your risk of injury in this area.

    Some riders use “bar ends” — forward-facing handlebar extensions — for comfort; however, collision with these bar extensions can result in abdominal and internal organ injuries, such as liver hematoma. An education campaign on the dangers of using “bar ends” has resulted in the near elimination of liver injury in mountain biking in Austria.

    Education
    When taking up mountain biking, encourage participants to take training, understand how injuries occur, ride within the level of their capability, and know how dismount safely from the bike.