Reports of Severe Mountain Bike Injuries: Cervical Spine
As with any sport that involves speed, equipment that can fail, and outdoor trails, serious injury can occur with mountain biking. In this study three cases of cervical spine injury and paralysis are presented.
In all three cases, male mountain biker's went forward over the handlebars. Each one hit the ground helmet first. In one case the impact split the helmet in two pieces. Damage to the helmet was evident for all three riders giving some idea of the severity of the injuries.
Cervical spine fracture with damage to the spinal cord left each biker paralyzed from the neck down. Although the helmet protects the head, it does not prevent injury to the vertebral column.
All three cases could have been prevented. One biker's front wheel fell off during a downhill ride. Another rider lost his balance. The third rider hit an unexpected and unmarked drop of five feet on the trail without any notice. Warning signs should have been left by the crew working on the trail.
The sporting community must be made aware of the dangers of mountain biking. Acute cervical spine injury leaving riders paralyzed is an unacceptable outcome of recreational or sporting activities. Going too fast for the conditions, equipment failure, riding beyond one's ability, and inattention are all under the control of the rider. Education may be the key to reducing serious neurologic injuries from mountain biking.
Sunil Apsingi, MS, MRCS, et al. Acute Cervical Spine Injuries in Mountain Biking. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. March 2006. Vol. 34. No. 3. Pp. 487-489.
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