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Mountain bike injuries getting a second look



Doctors compiling statistics on biking injuries in Squamish and Whistler

The growth of mountain biking in the Sea to Sky corridor has been nothing short of incredible. Bike events like the Test of Metal are selling out faster than ever before, the trails are busy, and the Whistler Mountain Bike Park is on its way to another record breaking year.

Unfortunately more people riding bikes also means that more people are turning up at the Whistler Health Care Centre and Squamish Hospital with mountain bike related injuries.

Now every injured rider that walks through the door is asked to participate in a study on mountain bike injuries. Staff at the two health care centres are also participating, and according to researchers Dr. Jill Osborn and Dr. Glenn Stetzl, they have already received hundreds of cases despite the fact that they only started collecting data in mid-July.

A husband and wife team, Dr. Osborn is currently with the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre in Vancouver, and Dr. Stetzl is a physician and surgeon in Squamish who has had to deal with numerous mountain bike injuries.

At the moment they plan to publish a study of their preliminary findings during the winter, followed by a more comprehensive study once a year’s worth of data has been collected.

"There is not a lot of information on the types of mountain bike injuries that are occurring in sports medicine literature," said Dr. Stetzl.

"We’ve had some very serious injuries and a recent death in Whistler," he added, referring to the 33-year-old Langley man who died on Aug. 8 after crashing in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. "We’re looking to see what comes out of the data, and to maybe open a dialogue with the mountain bike industry."

For example, the statistics could indicate that certain kinds of injuries are more frequent than others in downhill and cross-country biking, and that in turn could lead to recommendations for new safety gear or for the wider use of safety gear that is already available.

"We also want to find out who is out there riding, and where they’re riding. How are they being injured? Were they wearing any body armour, and did it help? Should there be any limitations on where you can go based on a riders’ experience?" asked Dr. Stetzl. "We’re looking for patterns, or a relationship between injuries."

Dr. Stetzl and Dr. Osborn hoped to start compiling data from the beginning of the mountain bike season, but got off to a late start. Staff at health care centres have been diligent in collecting information, however, and judging from the number of responses they have received in the past month, they should have ample data for a preliminary study.

Dr. Stetzl expects it will take most of the fall to go through the data collected in the summer, and does not expect to publish anything until the winter at the earliest. In the meantime, the study will continue until July of 2003 when a full year of data has been collected.