Vancouver, BC – As the sport of mountain biking grows in popularity so too does the number of injured riders. Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) doctors are reminding riders to “shred safe” this season so they don’t land in an emergency department and cut their riding season short.
“We see mountain bike riders in our emergency rooms every day — broken bones, concussions, internal bleeding, organ damage and head and spine injuries,” says Dr. John Carsley, Medical Health Officer with VCH. “Last season 100 mountain bikers needed major emergency surgery.”
Peter Giesbrecht was one of those statistics. In October, while riding a trail on Mount Fromme, the Burnaby resident fell off his bike and landed on a pile of rocks.
“I went over the handlebars and landed on my head. Even though I was wearing a helmet I broke my neck in four places, the most feared injury in mountain biking,” says Giesbrecht. “Mountain biking is an inherently dangerous sport. My best tip for riders — ride within your limits.”
One way to learn your limits and prevent injuries is by taking a skills course taught by a certified professional instructor. Skill development can benefit all riders from the beginner to the more experienced. Endless Biking, a mountain bike lesson, rental and tour operator in North Vancouver, is donating a two-hour private coaching session as part VCH’s safety awareness campaign. Protective gear is also included in the prize package.
“Wearing the protective gear is key,” says Dr. Annie Gareau, emergency room physician, Whistler Urgent Care Centre. “About three-quarters of the fractures we see are upper extremity, so we recommend riders wear long sleeves and elbows pads in addition to the standard helmet, gloves, knee pads, and grippy shoes. A neck brace and body armour are a must if you ride in high speed downhill parks or take jumping features.”
The majority of the most serious injuries in B.C. last season occurred in Whistler (58 per cent), North Vancouver (13 per cent) and Squamish (10 per cent). Eighty-nine per cent of patients were male. They stayed in hospital for an average of five days.
“Not surprisingly, an Alberta study showed that bicycling faster than usual increased riders’ risk of landing in the hospital by 2.6 times,” says Dr. Carsley. “I know you’ve heard it before, but slow down. The faster you ride, the worse the injuries can be.”
Other tips from mountain biking experts include checking the bike before riding to ensure it’s in good working condition and knowing the trail well before riding at full speed.
The local biking community is getting behind the initiative. Partners include Endless Biking, the North Shore Mountain Bike Association, Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association, Squamish Off Road Cycling Association, Whistler Off Road Cycling Association, Pemberton Valley Trail Alliance, Coast Gravity Park, Mountain Biking BC and Muddbunnies Riding Club. The initiative includes posters and a contest via social media. The campaign website, which includes contest details, is at www.vch.ca/shredsafe
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.4 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
Media availability: Dr. Réka Gustafson, medical health officer at VCH, will be available to speak about mountain biking injuries and prevention. Chris Simm, a certified professional instructor from Endless Biking, will be teaching technique to riders and explaining how skills development can prevent injuries.
Details: Mount Fromme, at the top of Mountain Highway at 10 a.m., North Vancouver. Park in the lot and continue up the path to the roundabout.
Vancouver Coastal Health