It’s logical when you think about it that getting a diagnosis is the vital first step to effective treatment. After all, how can you hope to treat an injury without knowing precisely what it is? Yet, it’s amazing how many cycling-related injuries we see (particularly at this time of year) that have gone undiagnosed and may have worsened as a result.
How cycling injuries are diagnosed
Diagnosing a cycling injury normally begins with a physical examination and a discussion of symptoms and how and when they first started. In some cases, you may be referred for diagnostic imaging. X-ray may be used to rule out a fracture or you may be offered ultrasound, CT scans or MRI for a more detailed examination of musculoskeletal injuries.
Common cycling injuries
Whether you are a committed cyclist or someone who likes to go out on your bike from time to time, it is likely that you will sustain an injury at some time. This may be due to overuse or muscle strain or some kind of impact injury. These are some of the most common injuries we treat here at the clinic:
- Impact injuries – If you fall off your bike you may be lucky enough to escape with a few scrapes and bruises or you may sustain a fracture (or several fractures) or even concussion. Muscle strains are also common following a collision or high speed crash. If you have a bad fall, it’s important to see a doctor who may refer you for diagnostic imaging tests.
- Repetitive strain injuries – A number of injuries affecting the lower limbs are due to overuse or poor technique. Cyclists are particularly prone to:
– Iliotibial band syndrome: This is an overuse injury which causes pain on the outside of the knee. The iliotibial band runs along the outside of the thigh from the pelvis to the tibia and crosses the knee and hip joints. It helps to stabilise the knee as it flexes and bends but can become inflamed through over use.
– Patellar or quadriceps tendinitis: The quadriceps tendon is located just above the kneecap while the patellar tendon is located just below it. These tendons work alongside the muscles in the front of the thigh to straighten the knee. Tendinitis is caused by repeated stress on the tendon which can lead to it starting to thicken and developing tiny tears. Symptoms include pain either above or below the kneecap, stiffness particularly during the morning and swelling around the kneecap.
– Medial tibial stress syndrome, or shin splints, is an overuse injury of the shin area which can occur due to a sudden increase in training intensity or duration. It causes a dull pain in the front of the leg which tends to worsen with physical activity.
Treatment for cycling injuries
The treatment recommended will depend on the type and severity of your injury. For example, iliotibial band syndrome may be treated using the RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation), anti-inflammatory medication and exercise. Surgery is rarely needed unless the inflammation becomes chronic. Shin splints may be treated by resting the affected area, regular stretching and strengthening exercises and the use of orthotics. If this fails to resolve the problem, a surgical procedure called a deep posterior compartment fasciotomy may be recommended.
What to do if you injure yourself
Unfortunately, accidents happen and while it’s not always possible to prevent cycling injuries it’s possible to prevent them from becoming more severe by stopping the activity straight away and getting an early diagnosis. You will normally need to rest the affected area and begin an appropriate course of treatment as early as possible. Joseph Queally specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of lower limb injuries and all type of trauma. Contact us for advice about cycling injuries.