From Lake Crabtree and Harris Lake to William B. Umstead State Park and Briar Chapel, the Triangle Region offers mountain bikers many scenic and challenging trails to explore. For all the off-roading opportunities local bikers are able to enjoy, certain trails may be rough on the body. And, over time, it is not uncommon for cyclists to wonder: Why do my knees hurt?
Knee pain experienced by mountain bikers can derive from a number of causes.
Find out why the knees are particularly susceptible to pain and trail-biking injuries. And, better yet, learn how the EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region Hip and Knee Team help mountain-biking athletes and enthusiasts Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better.
Why Do My Knees Hurt? And, Other Questions…
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), 80 million people in the U.S. enjoy bicycling. An additional study estimated that 17% of Americans aged six and above specifically choose mountain biking as their sport of choice. With such a large demographic of cycling athletes and enthusiasts, how common are trip-ups and injuries on the trail?
According to the same study referenced above by AAOS, upwards of 1.3 million cycling injuries were reported in the year 2014 alone! These injuries can include anything from minor cuts and lacerations to more complex problems such as:
- Muscle strains
These types of mountain-bike-related injuries commonly occur to collar bones, wrists, and … knees! To answer the frequently-asked question, “why do my knees hurt,” it is important to examine the difference between traumatic and overuse injuries.
While traumatic injuries certainly have a high incidence among cyclists, the knee joint is one of the most susceptible to overuse. Overuse injuries, unlike traumatic injuries (which happen instantly), are the result of wear and tear over time.
Mountain Bikers and Knee Overuse Injuries
Mountain bikers, unlike their paved-road cyclist counterparts, must contend with unpredictable terrain—rocks, drops, roots, bumps. These added obstacles create an added layer of “vibration forces” that both the mountain bike and rider’s body experience. Over time, the stress to the mountain biker’s knees increases the risk for an overuse injury.
One of the most common knee problems experienced by mountain cyclists is patellofemoral pain syndrome. Also known as “runner’s knee,” or “jumper’s knee,” this condition used to describe pain in front of the knee is a common overuse injury for many athletes.
For mountain bikers, knee pain and swelling due to overuse can be caused by:
- Wrong-Sized Mountain Bike
It is important to use an appropriately-sized mountain bike to avoid overuse injuries in the knee. Make sure that your bike seat, frames, and handlebar are the correct measurements to accommodate your body and body mechanics, avoiding hyperextension and flexion of the legs.
- Misalignment of Your Bike
Much like your body, if your bike is out of alignment, it can increase the opportunity for injury. Make sure to regularly check the gears, brakes, and other components of your mountain bike to ensure they are working properly.
- Single-Speed Bikes
There is some research to support single-speed mountain biking as a trigger for mountain-biking injuries. The inability to switch gears demands greater physical effort on your part, thus, increasing the risk of your knees (and other areas of your body) experiencing an overuse injury.
- Overexertion and Inexperience
Abruptly increasing speed and distance during mountain biking, especially if you are not an experienced rider, can up your chances of injury. To keep your knees free from joint pain and discomfort, start off slowly. Gradually increase the intensity and distance of your trail rides.
Treatment for Knee Pain
If you do find your knees in pain after a mountain bike excursion, or, you experience a knee injury, EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region Knee and Sports Medicine Doctors and Surgeons are here to help. Our board-certified, highly-qualified physicians offer patients the latest approaches in conservative treatment and minimally-invasive surgical procedures to address a variety of knee conditions.
Our ultimate goal is to get you back to the mountain trails you enjoy—as quickly and safely as possible.
To learn more, self-schedule an appointment now. Or, call us any time at (919) 220-5255.