Broken Bones – The Dark Side…
Image by rky mtb srfr
Article by Justin Shattuck
The darker side of mountain biking: injuries.
An often discouraging topic associated with any extreme sport is injuries. However, they do not have to be discouraging but little lessons that we can use to better ourselves and educate others wanting to conquer the mountains as well. No better way to learn than make a few mistakes and experience some mishaps.
A common injury experience while mountain biking is the collarbone snap action. Many of us have felt it, known it, and learned from it. Here is my story..
When I first got into mountain biking I was stoked, excited, and fearful of a bit of the challenges I was faced with. I mean let’s face it, its an extreme sport no matter how experience you are. I broke my collarbone while mountain biking a few years back, an injury not so out of the ordinary, really, as far as mountain bike injuries.
Typically a mountain biker breaks his collarbone this way. John MountainBiker encounters a rock, stump or other obstacle. John MountainBiker’s front wheel stops abruptly and John is no longer in control of his motion. Physics take control of John and he is launched forward — Wheeeeeeee! — over the handle bars John goes. And now that John is no longer riding, but falling, a close friend of John reaches out to assist and break the fall, his hand. Hand meet ground, an unhappy introduction at this point. Impact travels up John’s wrist, through his forearm and into his shoulder. Pop goes the weasel John, whereupon Snap! John now has a broken collarbone.
The collarbone, see, is a spindly wisp of a bone maybe as thick as a popsicle stick but nowhere near as flexible. The body’s most implausibly designed bone, sole purpose, aside from breaking and causing severe pain, is to connect John MountainBiker’s shoulder blade to his shoulder. Collarbones only need about ten foot-pounds of pressure to break, essentially the same amount of force it takes to snap a plastic spoon.
So for six to eight weeks with this inflamed region in the land between my neck and shoulder became known as the House of Pain. It seriously was the house that Pain had built within me! Basketball players break collarbones, too. Just examine any team photo and there you will see a broken one. It sticks out in the photograph by a bump on the shoulder that doctors call “beaks” squeaking out a plaintive little tale of woe and agony. Break your collarbone and that little beak squeals in your ear for weeks.
There are three wonderful ways to avoid breaking your collarbone: do not ride anything, break the habit of breaking your own falls or simply never leave the comfort and safety of your home.
I broke my collarbone the easy way: a crash called an “endo.” I was attempting a drop from a ledge down the trail. I would say I dropped about 120 feet. Many others have dropped thousands of feet with no injury, so why me?
To execute drops correctly, skilled mountain bikers jerk their bike’s front wheel up, take a hard pedal stroke, then hoist the bike skyward by flexing their knees and pulling up with their feet. When they land, they make sure they land rear wheel first.
Except for none of the above, I did pretty much everything right, right?
First, I dribbled over the ledge angled downward. Next, slinky-down-the-stairs style, my back wheel looped up over the front. My feet flew up, shoulders down, and in an instant I was one hundredth of my way into a somersault rudely interrupted by my shoulder meeting the ground.
The impact took more than my breath away. Literally at first, then more so as time elapsed.
“Under no circumstances, do not,” the emergency room doctor began saying, “do not, allow the pain to outpace the pain killer.” You see, pain assisting medication have a duration in which they work or set in. So if you wait for pain, you are screwed. Boy was that doctor correct.
My abiding memory of the fall is comprised of numerous distinct moments. First, how free and easy I felt on the ledge’s height. Next, how self-assured I was and finally, how exuberant. On last move and champ goes home!
Then the fall occurs.
Image by keithpyt
Sudden, abrupt, thorough, unexpected. I felt like I had been thrown towards the ground by a pissed off elephant and if that wasn’t enough the elephant pummeled me with his feet.
Ledge? Wooooo! Ahh…. No, No, front wheel is dropping.. no! “Danger Will Robinson!” Here comes… no.. no.. ground.. $*%& #!@% *!&# OUCH!
Injuries are discouraging when they hold us back from doing what we love doing. Some injuries, say stress fractures from running (been there too.. stupid shoes), arise from over doing it. Others, like knee injuries from too-fast hikes down the mountains, creep in as age shadows youth.
Mountain bike injuries, however, do not require overuse or much of anything else. They require nothing but natural environments: ground, body, and physics.
What is worse, they always try to teach us some lesson.
And therein lies the initial turn of the vicious circle. Got hurt riding because you fell?
Good! Because after you heal, now you can go out and learn the skill whose lack of mastering caused that fall and broke the bone that lead to your miserable trip to the hospital.
Fail to keep both your pedals level on a downhill ride, for example. A classic goof. With your weight loaded on the one foot (the lower one), one hard jolt from a root, rock, stump, log or various other unknown obstacle and, “see ya Freddy!” Over the handlebars you go, smack into the rock hard ground.
Neglecting to shift weight to your outside foot when cornering, which otherwise passed your ear tire firmly onto the terrain of the rails. Weight the inside foot and soon you experience the thrill of feeling your inside leg getting shredded down to a bloody shank as the bike slides out from beneath you. This little maneuver, known as a “road-pizza” fall, leave your leg resembling a calzone oozing sauce and pepperoni.
Finally, the afternoon you fail to deploy your front brake with that requisite combination of authority and skill. In the books they tell you to deploy your front brake with authority. The front brake contains more stopping power and is your ultimate stop friend.
Modulation, oscillation, whatever you decide to call it.
The descent was steep, I squeezed my front brake lever authoritatively, as I was supposed to do, educated to do or instructed to do. But what I had neglected to learn was that you are also supposed to slide your body backward, so that your rear lies behind the saddle. Back there your butt weighs the rear of the bike down, handily counteracting inertia as you hurtle forward and your forward brake, biting the front rim with authority, slows you down.
Yeah, my bike definitely slowed down!
Once again, “see ya Freddy” Over the handlebars, met with the lovely face of ground!
Athletes tend to assume all sorts of psychological poses as they recover from the injuries that keep them from their toys. Some choose to quit the pursuit that walloped. Others consider exercising great restraint once they heal.
It’s geeks like us, however, the dolts, who go back out after they heal to learn the skills that could have prevented the crash that broke the bone we wish was still naturally in tact.
Let’s examine.. so far I have broken two ribs, torn my right-knee’s ACL twice, had three knee surgeries, sprained a thumb, snapped a pinky, broken a wrist, both my ankles busted, cracked my ulna, broke the collarbone, dislocated a shoulder, lost four two teeth, broken my jaw, and nearly lost an eyeball, while experiencing the pain from bursal sacks the size of grapefruits swell up on my hips from biking injuries.
Each injury, each mishap, each mistake per se has educated me, more so, inspired me to learn the skill that would have prevented the injury. This is an inoculation of a decidedly after-the-fact sort peculiar to mountain biking. Problem is, you never know which lesson the trail has in store for you next time you go out.
Image by sponger
So if you are an adherent of crash sports — skiing, snowboarding, trail running, and form of whitewater lunacy — consider this just one guy’s definition of hotshot skill: the best are those who return home only a little more hanged up than how they left the house early that morning. Ending the day with as many intact bones and body parts as you were born with means you are no longer learning.. There is no harm in it, really, I promise!
Of course, if all this seems like too much work, you can always try sea kayaking, thrills, risks, and adventure of a far different sort. Every sport has their risks associated with them.. which are you willing to take.
We encourage good safety and well-being, so guy buy some protective gear and not be lazy. You are a mountain biking dork regardless, so do it up in style.
What do you think?