You can do an infinite amount of things to try and prevent yourself getting an injury when mountain biking (improve your technique, improve your equipment etc) but it’s pretty much inevitable that, at some point, you’re gonna end up with one. As I sit here typing, nursing my broken ribs, I can definitely testify to that. Knowing what to do immediately after an injury can reduce the size of the injury and get you back on your bike sooner and these basics have definitely come in useful for me. Ultimately, it’s important to recognise the below pointers are only a guide and you may need to seek professional help depending on how severe your injury is.
After any injury, your body responds with a predictable response – inflammation (swelling).
Inflammation is needed to protect the injury and allow it to heal but this process can be helped by using 5 simple steps:
Protect yourself from further injury. If, for example, after 10 minutes riding your knee pain starts, it’s telling you that you shouldn’t be riding until the cause of your knee pain has been sorted.
You’ve got an injury so give it time to heal. On average it takes inflammation 6 – 8 weeks to fully resolve. It’s important to keep joints moving throughout this time providing the movement is pain free. Following a ‘no pain, no gain’ strategy is likely to make you worse.
Whether its a cold pack, bag of ice or bag of frozen peas, cooling the area in the first 48 hours regulates the initial inflammatory process and ultimately speeds healing. If you accidentally re-injure the area again or you feel it getting warm after you’ve moved it reach for the ice.
Moderate compression of the injured area using an appropriate bandage or specialist tape can assist in regulating inflammation. Be sure you know what you’re doing with this though as getting it wrong can make things worse.
Periodically raising the injured area above the level of your heart eg if you’ve got a swollen ankle, laying on the settee watching TV with your foot supported on a few cushions, will help reduce swelling and pain.
Overall, as frustrating as it is, being sensible with the injury you’ve picked up in the short term will benefit you and get you back on your bike quicker in the long term.
If you’re going to take the time to practice, practice like the elite.