Riding a bicycle is one of the most pleasant and appealing global pastimes. In the minds of many, bicycling ranks right up there with taking a nap and hiking in the woods among the most pleasant activities.
A pedal bicycle is quiet, gets you where you want to go, and is a terrific exercise for staying in shape and getting in those cardio minutes that your doctor recommends.
But bicycling does involve serious risks for mishaps and injuries based on overuse of a particular muscle group. As far as mishaps go, sadly, the American Family Physicians organization notes that bicycling is second in a list of most dangerous activities, following No. 1, which is riding animals as a sport. Bicycling accounts for approximately 900 deaths per year in the United States and accounts for 23,000 hospital admissions, 580,00 emergency room visits, and 1.2 million appointments with family physicians each year.
Yes, this is the activity that brings to mind bucolic scenes of bicycle riders in the 1800(s) and reminds of us of that playfully romantic song, “A Bicycle Built for Two.”
There are risks in any sport, but bicycling has numerous risk factors, some of which are behavioral and some of which are circumstantial. That said, you can change your behavior by wearing a helmet. But most of us do not change genders and males are more likely to have a bicycle accident than females. Here is a list of risk factors. Pay special attention to the risk factors you can change:
Circumstantial Risk Factors
- Men are more likely than females to get into a bicycle accident
- Cyclists are between the ages of 9 to 14 have a higher risk
- Riding over unsafe ground, such as riding on ice or mountain biking
- An automobile is involved
- Cyclist has a pre-existing condition
- Bicyclist is from an unstable family life
In contrast, here are some behaviors that you can change to reduce your risk of getting into an accident or sustaining a dangerous injury:
- Wearing a helmet, which is required by law in some places
- Riding while intoxicated
- Bicycling in early mornings or late evenings – essentially, this refers to bicycling when sunlight is apt to be glaring or dim
- Riding without reflective warning lights on a bicycle
- Bicycling when tired
- Bicycling when under the influence of medicinal or non-medicinal drugs.
- Riding at high speeds downhill or otherwise
- Trying to perform trick while riding
Of course, there are specific injuries involving bicycles, which include strained muscles and sprained tendons. The most common areas for inflammation to build up from overuse injuries are in the lower back and the knee. Neck strains are also common due to holding your head up while leaning forward for long periods.
Minor injuries include chafing, sore muscles, and sunburn.
At the start of the biking season, many people try to bike more miles than they are used to. Remember to start slow and work up your stamina from there. Consult your doctor on what your limitations might be. Then get out there and stay safe and have fun.