Is Mountain Biking Dangerous? (How To Prevent Injuries?)

Aside from performing stunts on your BMX bike, mountain biking is one of the most daunting sports when it comes to adventure. It is broken down into various categories, with downhill mountain biking being the most dangerous of the lot. One common question we see from people is whether or not mountain biking is dangerous.

Is Mountain Biking Dangerous? While it could be dangerous for those with no skills or beginners trying to take it to the next level, mountain biking is generally considered safe. Most of the injuries that occur are mild. In general, more than 70% of all mountain biking injuries happen to the limbs and not the head which could cause significant trauma.

However, diving deeper into these mountain biking statistics would reveal just how safe or dangerous the sport could be. There have been numerous reports of concussion, but modern technology in high-end helmets have tried to eradicate this. Let’s find out exactly how dangerous mountain biking can be.

Is Mountain Biking Dangerous

How Dangerous Is Mountain Biking Compared To Other Sports?

Mountain biking injuries often occur when unskilled individuals try to do what professionals do. However, it is not as dangerous as some of the other sports in the world. In this section, we will look at how mountain biking compares to some of the other most common sports that you can do in the world. However, we will skip sports like bull riding, which is inherently dangerous and reckless.

1. Baseball

The most dangerous sport according to some recent statistics compared to mountain biking is baseball. With over 14.5 injuries per 1000 exposures, many people often find that baseball can be more grueling than mountain biking. Fortunately, the number remains low enough to make it a safe sport.

2. Rugby

Rugby is a full-contact sport mostly played in European countries and some Southern hemisphere countries. Since the sport involves direct contact from one player to another, the chances of injuries can be quite high. Rugby has around 13 injuries per 1000 exposures compared to 1.54 for mountain bike riding.

3. Basketball

Basketball is not a full-contact sport like rugby, but contact is still made between different players on the basketball court. Since the sport is fast and requires plenty of quick turns and movements, it is no wonder that ankle and leg injuries tend to be prevalent and many people often injure themselves. Basketball is estimated to have about 11.1 injuries per 1000 exposures.

4. Football

The NFL is heavily cracking down on injuries and the new injury to Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin has thrown the NFL into a new way of preventing injuries. When it comes to American Football, it is estimated that players sustain around 8.1 injuries per 1000 exposures and this is much higher than mountain biking.

5. Soccer

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and it has the most followers and players. Stretching from as far West as Mexico to Tokyo, Japan, almost every nation in the world has a soccer team. However, the injuries are surprisingly low, but still far higher than mountain biking. It is estimated to have around 7.7 injuries per 1000 exposures to soccer.

How Many Injuries Does Mountain Biking Have?

How Many Injuries Does Mountain Biking Have

Now that you have seen the number of injuries found in other sports, you should know that mountain biking has around 1.54 injuries per 1000 exposures. As you can see, this is one of the lowest levels of injuries and something like Bull Riding is responsible for about 119 injuries per 1000 exposures to the sport.

Mountain Biking is not as dangerous as many people would want it to be and this is why it is considered a generally safe sport for people to practice. 

What Are Some Of The Dangers Of Mountain Biking?

Since mountain biking is not as dangerous as some of the other sports, we should look at which injuries are the most common. According to Dr. Jeffrey Halbrecht, the following injuries are most likely to occur. As you can see, many of these injuries are rather mild and do not need extensive medical treatment:

1. Abrasions To The Skin

As you would expect from a sport, which involves numerous off-road terrains and tough or treacherous areas for the rider to take on, skin abrasions would be at the top of the list. This commonly refers to things like cuts and bruises, which are often sustained when the rider accidentally falls off the bike or grazes one of the obstacles.

2. Joint Sprain (Acromioclavicular)

One of the other injuries, which tends to be more severe is shoulder separation and damage to the AC joint ligament. Due to the tough nature of many mountain biking terrains, the shoulders and arms will bear a large brunt of the work. If these muscles cramp up or if your muscles are weak, they tend to be in the firing line for potential injuries. 

3. Pain In The Knees And Lower Back

As you might have guessed, cycling involves plenty of functionality around the knees and lower back. You will be using your knees and shoulders for most of the heavy lifting and your lower back will also take the brunt of the force due to the movements that you will be making on the bike.

Pain or sprains in the lower back or knees are not uncommon in cycling and many people often fall foul to overextending these muscles this could lead to significant issues when it comes to riding your bike.  The best way to alleviate these issues and even prevent some of them would revolve around the correct setup of your bike.

4. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If the median nerve in the wrist does not provide any feeling to your thumb, you could be dealing with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome if your hands start to go numb for a while, you could be overextending your hands and this could lead to the person losing control over the bike. Over time the injury could aggravate and start causing pain in the wrist.

5. Broken Collarbone

Finally, the broken collarbone issue is something most mountain bike riders deal with often on their cycling journey and it is something that could potentially put you out of action for a long while. The broken collarbone often happens when the individual falls off the bike with an outstretched hand and would have to wear the arm in a sling for a specific time.

How Could You Prevent Mountain Biking Injuries?

The best way to make sure that you don’t sustain any of these horrific mountain bike injuries is to be prepared. In the following section, I will share some of the tips recommended by experts and mentors that have helped me avoid some of the possible injuries, which are often associated with riding your mountain bike:

  1. Improve Your Fitness

Since many of the injuries associated with mountain biking are derived from things like sprains and pains in different muscles, the way to avoid this would be to improve your overall fitness level. Once you improve your fitness level, you will be strengthening these muscles to help you make sure that it does not occur.

A solid fitness plan would be beneficial to anyone in the cycling industry to make sure they can avoid some of the most common injuries many people would sustain when cycling.

  1. Warming Up And Stretching
Warming Up And Stretching

Another way to avoid possible mountain bike injuries would be to make sure you are stretching and warming up efficiently. If you get on the bike with cold muscles, you could be left with possible injuries due to your body not yet being ready to go at full pace. A solid warm-up and stretching routine could be what you need.

  1. Wearing The Right Gear

Whether you believe in cycling clothes or not, they are effective. If you wear loose clothing, you can easily snag one of your garments on the chain or any other part of the bike. This could cause some frustration and potentially cause you to stumble and fall over whilst you are riding your bike. Fundamentally, you wear the right cycling gear.

Additionally, the helmet is one of the most important parts of cycling and you should always make sure that your head is protected. If you fall, your helmet will take the brunt of the force and possibly prevent concussions.

  1. Lowering Center Of Gravity

Let’s face it, all of us will fall with a mountain bike at some point or another. However, the idea is to mitigate the injury when you do accidentally fall. There are two main ways in which you can mitigate possible falls and this could help you prevent possible injuries that could put you out of action for a while:

  • Lowering the center of gravity: To lower your center of gravity, you should feel more comfortable riding out of the saddle. When you ride out of the saddle, you can stabilize yourself, which should help make falls a little less frustrating.
  • Learning how to fall: You cannot practice falling, but if you have fallen with your bike a few times, you will know what not to do. The idea is to ensure that you do not fall with an arm out to prevent breaking the collarbone. You should try to avoid falling on other objects as well.

Once you have mastered some of these, you should find it much easier to ride your bike and deal with possible injuries that could occur. Keep in mind that you will eventually need to deal with a painful fall that could put you in the hospital. 

Frequently Asked Questions

I hope that you now understand some of the dangers and why mountain biking is so frustrating. However, there are still a few questions that many people might have when it comes to mountain biking. We have found some of the most common questions that many people around the web might have:

Is Downhill Mountain Biking Dangerous?

Downhill mountain biking is one of the most dangerous forms of mountain biking that you could attempt. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, downhill mountain biking has a higher injury rating than baseball. This comes in at around 16.8 injuries per 1000 exposures if the exposures are only 1 hour long.

Is Mountain Biking Hard?

Determining whether mountain biking is hard is not that easy for everyone to understand. However, the dangers associated with mountain biking can make it daunting for many riders looking to try the sport. Due to the nature of certain mountain biking injuries, many people find it hard. However, hardtail climbing on a mountain bike is far easier than downhill riding.

Is Mountain Biking An Extreme Sport?

If we look at true extreme sports like skateboarding and BMX riding, mountain biking does not fall under this same branch of being an extreme sport. Mountain biking is often also considered a casual sport and when looking at the X-Games, we don’t see mountain biking cutting it. However, downhill mountain biking can technically be considered an extreme sport.

Is Mountain Biking More Dangerous Than Skiing?

Once again, this is one of the more subjective topics and mountain biking can be more dangerous than skiing. However, when you take children and extreme downhill mountain bike riders out of the equation, you find that mountain biking is not as dangerous as skiing. 

Is Mountain Biking a Dangerous Sport Summary

Mountain biking is one of the most fun past-time activities that anyone can indulge in. It might have some elements of danger, but with the right gear and training, you should find that mountain biking is not that hard or dangerous. If you disagree, we would love to read some of your comments and find out why you disagree.

About Martin

I am Martin, I am the author of this blog. My main interests include cycling. That's why this blog was created. I have always been interested in technology and how bicycles are made, so I built one myself.

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