Cycle Safe This Summer!

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For many, summer means cycling. Whether you bicycle as a mode of relaxation, as a competitive sport, for cardiovascular fitness, or simply as a means of transportation, now is the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with common biking injuries and learn the best way to prevent them.

As with many athletic pursuits, most cycling injuries are caused by enthusiastic participants pushing themselves beyond their physical limits. But when pain persists, it’s time to seek treatment from an experienced sports medicine professional. Here’s a list of the most common cycling injuries we see:

Knee Pain: The biomechanics of cycling can stress the knee joint in many ways. Improper saddle height, incorrect foot positioning on the pedals, or wearing shoes that inhibit natural side-to-side motion of the knee can cause pain, swelling, or “clicking” in the joint. Unaddressed, these conditions can worsen and cause cartilage irritation or deterioration. Injuries or persistent pain should be addressed by a sports medicine specialist.

Numbness: Pinching of the small nerves between the second and third or third and fourth toes can cause swelling, numbness, or sharp pain for many cyclists. The issue can usually be resolved by loosening toe straps or shoe laces or switching to a clipless pedal system.

It’s important to note that numbness and a tingling sensation that presents with leg pain may be an indicator of acute compartment syndrome, a very serious condition that can inhibit blood flow and starve nerve and muscle cells of oxygen. Acute compartment syndrome should be considered a medical emergency.

Shin Splints: Shin splints are caused by repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach muscles to the bone. Because the condition is related to extreme foot pronation (collapsing arch), corrective orthoses are important preventive tools. Thorough and proper stretching can also help cyclists avoid shin splints.

Achilles Tendonitis: Improper seat height, incorrect pedaling, and inadequate warm-up periods can each lead to pain in the back of the heel bone. Though the condition typically resolves itself with the help of ice packs, aspirin, and rest; chronic pain or swelling should be medically evaluated.

Sesamoiditis: The sesamoids are two small pea-shaped bones located in the ball of the foot beneath the big toe joint. Often referred to as the “ball bearings of the foot,” these bones can become inflamed or ruptured from the stress of cycling. The condition can usually be resolved by an improved shoe fit or the addition of orthoses.

Form Matters: Biking Basics


Many cycling injuries can be avoided by simply becoming aware of how you bike. Follow these tips to make sure form and function are working together:

  • When at the bottom of a pedal stroke, the knee should be slightly bent.
  • Avoid rocking your hips when pedaling or pedaling while standing up.
  • A white-knuckle handlebar grip stresses the neck and shoulders and wastes energy. Develop a controlled but relaxed grip instead.
  • Alter your hand position on the handlebars regularly for comfort and to avoid fatigue.

If you’re a cyclist and have sustained an injury or are experiencing pain that doesn’t go away, call Steindler Orthopedic Clinic at (319) 338-3606 to schedule an evaluation. Remember, addressing issues early can keep you pedaling pain-free all summer long!