Cycling culture has certainly picked up in the past year with gyms being closed and people looking for a way to get their exercise outdoors. More and more people want to be more active in and around their communities and what better way to be active than to bicycle. Although cycling can be liberating, it is not without its risks.

As physiotherapists, each season we see clients who have suffered a wide range of injuries from cycling. We believe the benefits far outweigh the risks but always stress the importance of bike accident injury prevention strategies. And, in cases where accidents do occur, our healthcare system is well equipped with bike accident rehabilitation services that can get you back in the saddle.

Bike Accident Injury

According to the Canadian Vital Statistics: Death Database (CVSD), on average, there are of 74 deaths per year in Canada related to cycling. Collisions involving cyclists from 2006 to 2017 reflect 151 to 228 per 1,000,000.

Interestingly, amongst cycling fatalities, the highest percentage (16%) occur between 4pm and 8pm. This period corresponds with late afternoon, rush hour, and collectively busier streets. In addition, weather and environmental conditions like visibility, darkness, rain or blinding sunlight may have played a role in 21% of fatal cycling events during the 2006 to 2017 timeframe, according to the CVSD.

Check out the replay of McLeish Orlando’s Bike Month webinar! The panel discusses bike crashes and the law in Ontario, rehabilitating after a bike crash, and returning to life following a bike crash from a survivor’s perspective. Learn about cyclists’ rights and what to do when a crash occurs. A must-see for all those that ride and those that rehabilitate injured cyclists.

It’s clear that cycling accidents happen and it is important that cyclists and healthcare providers understand that there is a spectrum of issues that can come from this type of accident.

In the event that you are involved in a cycling-related accident, remember that not all injuries from cycling are the same.  Depending on the circumstances, injuries from cycling can range from scrapes/ bruises, fractures, concussions, to brain injuries and spinal cord injuries.

Some people come into our clinic many days, weeks, or even months after their cycling accident, specifically stating that their symptoms are getting progressively worse. Many do report increased anxiety around motor vehicles, other cyclists, or pedestrian crosswalks.

Sometimes, the injuries are not as easily observable and can be related to an undetected head injury where people will report headache, nausea, visual/perceptual difficulties, changes in cognition, brain fog, balance dysfunction, memory issues, and mood/personality changes.

Although this may seem daunting, there are methods to address these obstacles and trained clinicians can certainly get you back on track to riding once again!

Bike Accident Injury Rehabilitation

At Propel Physiotherapy, we have the skills and experience to assist clients recovering from traumatic cycling accidents. One client in particular was left them with a traumatic brain injury, multiple fractures, in addition to visceral injuries as a result of a bike accident while riding to school. The client also experienced persistent concussion symptoms such as vertigo, fatigue, and high-level balance deficits.

The client received two weeks in the intensive care unit, followed by six weeks of in-patient rehabilitation. After being discharged from the hospital’s care, the client underwent two years of community-based rehabilitation (out of hospital), where she attended in-clinic sessions at Propel Physiotherapy and community sessions (at home, or at the gym).

Therapy targeted the vestibular system, improving dynamic balance with specific exercises, and addressing the persistent symptomology through graded exercises. In addition, there was graded exposure to cycling again – something that requires physical rehabilitation but also mental and cognitive preparedness. This is where Propel Physiotherapy was able to collaborate effectively with the client’s team and bring their goals to the forefront of the recovery journey.

With the assistance of the physiotherapist and the rehabilitation team, the client was able to successfully return to riding their bike again to and from school.

Bike Injury Prevention Strategies

While city laws, road ways and even driver awareness is beginning to change in favour of cyclist safety, there are lots of things we can do to decrease our risk of injury and feel more confident in the saddle. Here are some bike safety tips to ensure we share the road while getting our physical activity goals!

  • Be prepared: There are several essential pieces of equipment and cycling attire designed to reduce your chances of injury and ensure a safe a ride as possible. Check out this blog on equipment to prevent common cycling injuries and accidents. We encourage our clients to bring in their bike and cycling equipment for help in assessing whether equipment is appropriate and will help them meet their goals.
  • Be courteous: Sharing is caring- like driving, being a defensive and proactive cyclist can help to decrease the incidence of crashes/ injuries.
  • Be proactive: Cycling is a great sport and activity, but it is important that anyone playing a sport or doing an activity that puts them in the same position or repeating the same motion for prolonged periods of time undertakes appropriate cross training measures. Check out some of these exercises to prevent the most common cycling injuries.

If you are a cyclist experiencing pain or injuries, or you would like to discuss ways to prevent injuries and maximize your performance, talk to one of our physiotherapists.

At Propel Physiotherapy, we encourage participation in sports that are appropriate for your condition and goals. We also provide education and programming around safety, equipment, technique and injury prevention.

Written by

Hoong Phang
Hoong PhangManaging Director & Physiotherapist
Hoong holds a Bachelor Honours Health Sciences from the University of Western Ontario (2008). He has also completed a Master of Science in Health and Exercise Psychology (2010) from McMaster University, and Master of Physiotherapy (2012) from McMaster University. Hoong is currently published in the academic journals “Disability and Rehabilitation” and “Spinal Cord.”

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