Mountain biking can be as risky as football, diving: study

Sun Jun 6, 2010 8:13pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - High speeds, extreme terrain and long vertical drops might be making the increasingly popular sport of mountain biking as risky as football, diving and cheerleading, according to a Canadian study.

The findings warn that taking two wheels to the trails invites the danger of a spinal injury. One of every six cases reviewed was severe enough to result in complete paralysis.

"People need to know that the activities they choose to engage in may carry with them unique and specific risks," Dr. Marcel Dvorak, of the University of British Columbia in Canada, told Reuters Health.

"Helmets will not protect you from these injuries, nor will wearing Ninja Turtle-like body armor."

Previous studies had described both the range of injuries sustained by mountain bikers and the spinal injuries suffered across a variety of sports but no one had evaluated the specific risks of spinal injury among mountain bikers.

Dvorak and his colleagues identified 102 men and 5 women who were seen at British Columbia's primary spine center between 1995 and 2007 after mountain biking accidents.

The average patient was 33 years old and all but two were recreational riders, they report in The American Journal of Sports Medicine (here). The team couldn't calculate the risk of a spine injury among those who mountain biked, but they figured that over the 13-year study period, the annual rate was one in 500,000 British Columbia residents.

The riders accounted for 4 percent of all spine trauma admissions to the center.

Surgery was required for about two-thirds of the mountain bikers but the most devastating injuries were the 40 percent that involved the spinal cord. Of these, more than 40 percent led to complete paralysis.   Continued...

<p>Emyr Davies of Britain competes in the downhill timed training session during the Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William, Scotland June 4, 2010. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne</p>