Off-road cycling injuries. An overview

Sports Med. 1995 May;19(5):311-25. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199519050-00002.


Off-road bicycles, commonly called 'mountain bikes', have become increasingly popular worldwide since their introduction in the western US in the late 1970s. This popularity is partly because these vehicles can be ridden on a wide variety of terrain which is not accessible to other types of bicycle. Although early versions were rather crude, off-road bicycles today typically include high strength, lightweight frames with a wide array of available suspension and braking systems. Virtually all aspects of the technology continue to evolve, including components and protective equipment. As the popularity of off-road cycling has increased, so too has the interest and level of participation in the competitive aspects of the sport. Currently, 2 organisations--the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)--sponsor the major events within the US and around the world. To date, the majority of studies have been descriptive in nature, with data collected via self-report, questionnaire formats. Only 1 prospective study has been reported thus far, which surveyed a major international competition held in the US in 1994. Injury rates calculated on the basis of injuries per ride or event in competitive venues have been reported, ranging from 0.2 to 0.39% compared with 0.30% for recreational participants. Retrospective data collected from recreational and competitive riders indicate that from 20 to 88% of those surveyed reported having sustained an injury during the previous year of participation. The majority of injuries appear to be acute, traumatic episodes involving the extremities, with contusions and abrasions being the most common. In general, the incidence of more severe injuries such as dislocations, fractures and concussions is low. Comparisons between road and off-road cycling events indicate that off-road cyclists sustain more fractures, dislocations and concussions than their road-event counterparts. Future research should incorporate epidemiological methods of data collection to determine the relationships between vehicle design, terrain and safety equipment and riding-related accidents. Further, those engaged in such research should attempt to set a standard definition for injury.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / classification
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Bicycling / classification
  • Bicycling / history
  • Bicycling / injuries*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Safety
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Protective Devices
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States