World’s Largest Medical Study of Mountain Biker Health and Injury Commissioned by The Enduro World Series

Over the past three years, researchers from Napier University have been conducting a massive research project with Enduro World Series participants to collect information about where, when, and how mountain biking injuries occur.
Just a little dirt-rash for this rider during the 2018 EWS round in Finale Ligure.

Over the past three years, researchers from Napier University have been conducting a massive research project with Enduro World Series participants to collect information about mountain bike injuries, and how to better prevent them. “The survey was carried out by Sports Scientist Dr Debbie Palmer of Edinburgh Napier University and covers the full breadth of participation, from our recreational rider base right through to the upper echelons of elite athletes.”

“The report comprises two separate studies. The first study included 2,000 EWS-racing athletes, from 46 countries, across 10 EWS races, recording how, when, and where they were injured at our own events. Highlights include the most frequently occurring injuries and those injuries that resulted in the most days spent off the bike recovering. The findings have proven to be fascinating, with the relatively low incidence of concussion and spinal injuries coming to the fore. The report also highlights some interesting findings about what types of injury are likely to occur on different types of terrain. It is our hope that these insights will help everyone develop safer enduro competition in future years. The document will be freely available for everyone to use.”

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Of the 2,000 riders included in the first part of the study, 8.9% reported having suffered an injury during an EWS event. “71% of [those] injuries were caused by contact with the ground and the remainder (29%) were for other reasons such as field of play conditions, recurrence, overuse.” Shoulder and clavicle injuries filled in the largest piece of the trauma pie, followed by hands, heads, lower legs, elbows, knees, and forearms to round it out. 

The most common types of injury for those given body parts included lacerations at 26%, then contusion/hematoma/bruising at 19.2%, and finally the dreaded fracture at 17.7%. 

Though only 0.6% of all racers surveyed suffered a concussion, the dangerous brain injury made up 7.3% of the injury total. The study found that 71% of concussed riders withdrew from the race after being diagnosed with a concussion, while the remaining 29% finished the event they were participating in.  

“The second study surveyed the injuries of the wider participation base, including almost 2,000 riders from over 60 countries who ride recreationally, compete at an amateur level in local enduro events, and those who compete on the world stage. More than half of those surveyed were racing below EWS level, showing a great level of engagement from the wider mountain biking community. We’re confident that these results are a good reflection of injury and health for not just elite racers, but the whole spectrum of rider ability and age.”

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from the enduro mountain bike medical study report.

For the second group, comprised of amateur riders and racers, most injuries occurred while training, or practicing for races, or while “enduro riding.” Similar to the EWS racer side of the study, “the most commonly injured body location was the shoulder/clavicle, followed by the wrist, knee and then head, and most severely injured the Pelvis/Sacrum/buttock, followed by the lower back/lumbar spine and upper back/thoracic spine. Overall shoulder/clavicle injuries presented the greatest burden [meaning the most total recovery time for the entire surveyed population.”

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As stated, the aim of this study is to find out where, when, and how riders are getting hurt, in the hopes that race organizers can use the info to make racing as safe as possible. You can read the full-length analysis on the EWS website or download the report directly.