The Enduro World Series exists because we all love to ride, but riding, and especially racing mountain bikes, comes with inherent risks. That’s why the Enduro World Series has joined forces with Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland to undertake a two year study at EWS races to record, monitor and analyse all injuries in a bid to better understand and hopefully prevent injuries in the future. The project is headed by Dr Debbie Palmer, who works with the International Olympic Committee and World Olympians Association Medical research groups on various athlete injury and illness surveillance and prevention studies. We caught up with her to find out more about what the project entails.
What exactly is the IIPP – Injury/Illness Performance Project?
The injury/illness performance project is an applied medical research study, looking at measuring the impact of rider injury and illness events during the Enduro World Series, with the aim of protecting rider health and helping riders continue to race and perform.
Why is it so important to have these surveillance studies?
Sport and exercise participation is good for us, but it is known that there are in some instances increased risks of injury and also illness, and this is more apparent at the elite level of sport. Surveillance studies provide the nuts and bolts information about a given group of athletes. Enduro riders for example will suffer different types of injuries and in different ways compared to say football or rugby players. In order to be able to prevent these it is important to know what the main injury and illness issues are, how frequent and how severe they are, and, what causes them. Systematically gathering and analysing this information allows governing bodies of sport like the EWS to accurately implement prevention initiatives, all in an effort to help to protect rider health and performances in the process.
Are concussions and head injuries becoming a more common occurrence in extreme sports these days?
The true rate of concussion in sport is a little unknown as awareness and thus reporting of this as a sports injury issue has increased greatly in recent times. Certainly though in some sports, for example rugby, the rates have generally been seen to increase, and this may be due (in addition to increased awareness and reporting) to development in player physical stature where bigger, faster and stronger players are resulting in increasing collision contact forces. As an emerging sport we don’t currently know what the rider concussion picture looks like in the EWS, but we do know that it is not uncommon in mountain biking as a whole and Enduro. The consequences of concussion, particularly repeated concussion events are well documented, and so it is important for us to understand the magnitude of this particular issue.
How can we, as riders, educate ourselves on this topic for our own good and to help fellow athletes?
Awareness is key. We have seen through American football, boxing, and rugby that there are processes in place to identify if players have suffered from a concussion, and for those who are diagnosed there are structured return to play processes that they are required to follow. Repeated minor head injuries can have cumulative effects and also increase the risk of secondary injury while still recovering from the first one. With better recognition and rehabilitation, and if these are both done correctly recovery outcomes for individuals are better.
What are the tell tale signs that someone has had a concussion and shouldn’t continue racing?
While no one wants to stop racing when they’ve signed up to an event, a rider who is diagnosed as having suffered a concussion, or, is suspected as having a concussion, should be removed from the race. Red flags after a direct or indirect blow to the head include – loss of consciousness; neck pain/tenderness; double vision; vomiting; weakness or tingling in arms or legs; severe or increasing headache; deteriorating conscious state; restless/agitated or combative. In the event a rider displays any of these signs after a crash, the rider should report/be reported to event medical staff immediately for a SCAT 3/5 assessment. Concussion signs and symptoms evolve over time, so if you are unsure at all and/or medical personnel are not immediately available, the rider should refer/be referred to nearest event medical staff immediately. If you are diagnosed with or suspected of having a concussion you should always follow medical advice and guidelines, including a period of rest and then a graduated return to riding/racing once symptoms subside.