Bicycling as a competitive sport can really liven a dull workout routine, and is a great way to release pent-up stress. Whether the goal is to test your skills against a group, or achieve the solitary satisfaction of a long endurance ride, the physical and mental rewards are rich either way. However, when you train at this advanced level of cycling, the chances of sustaining an injury ramp up considerably. A friendly, fast-paced ride can quickly turn into a total bummer, if you or a fellow rider has to drop out due to physical pain.
3 Common Competitive Cycling Injuries
The following three types of competition injuries aren't necessarily exclusive to men, but there are certain aspects of each that are more male-oriented. Each type includes tips on how to prevent them from happening.
1. Crash Injuries
Even though bicycle accidents are certainly not just a guy-thing, statistics show that men do have a higher incidence of road mishaps than females. As in many other sports, young males 18-30 years old are naturally prone to the type of risk-taking behavior that does not mix well with serious competition cycling. Because both mountain and road bike training require a high degree of skills and attention, crashes tend to be quite injurious. Of the two, open road cycling is by far the most dangerous, simply due to the hazards of vehicular traffic.
The ways to avoid bicycle accidents are varied and numerous, but they all fall under the old adage of "see and be seen". The more you are aware of your surroundings and the potential hazards they present, the safer you'll be. It's also very important to wear reflective clothing and equip your bike with strong lighting so that "the other guy" is able to see you, especially in low-light situations.
Wearing crash-protective items like heavy leather-palmed gloves and thick knee pads will help prevent "road rash", but particular attention must be paid to your helmet. Concussions are a distinct possibility in all sports, but going with a MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) rated helmet can lower this risk for bicyclists considerably.
2. Overuse Injuries
While the acute trauma associated with a crash can happen on any ride, far more common and avoidable are injuries caused by a poorly set-up bike. Careful attention should be given to properly adjusting the seat, handlebars, and pedals so they fit your particular physique. Prolonged pressure stemming from uneven weight distribution can result in numbness and nerve pain. Leg hyperextension issues can arise from an incorrect seat-to-pedal distance. What is usually just a minor inconvenience to the occasional bike rider can develop into something quite painful for the avid cyclist who puts in many miles a day.
3. Genital Injuries
Anyone who rides a bike for more than an hour a day will eventually experience groin numbness that, left unaddressed, can develop into full-blown pain. Permanent nerve damage can happen to the male penis and testicles when subjected to the pressures and torsions of long, strenuous bike rides. Competitive bicycles are typically fitted with narrow, hard-nosed seats that don't accommodate the genital area very well. Switching to a no-nosed seat is an excellent way to prevent genital injuries.
The male yeast infection known as balanitis is a real concern for all men who compete, given the type of clothing associated with the sport. Even the best fitting, most friction-free cycling shorts can start to chafe during a long ride, and this is an open invitation to the rashes/soreness that define balanitis of the penis. Use of freshly laundered, moisture wicking bike shorts is recommended, along with prompt balanitis treatment if this condition develops. In order to effectively eliminate recurring flare-ups, you might have to go beyond just topical antifungal creams, and have a dermatologist determine the underlying reason.
Biking Safe (and Fast!)
With a the right amount of attention to bicycle set-up details and proper personal gear, there shouldn't be anything to keep you from pursuing competition-level cycling. If you can avoid resorting to the typical male response of just "gutting-it-out" when confronted with pain, and immediately attend to the root cause(s), your future will be bright as an avid cyclist!