Explore UPMC.com
Show the Banner?

Bicycling Injuries

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment with a physician or other Sports Medicine expert, call
1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

UPMC Rooney
Sports Complex
3200 S. Water St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15203

UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex
8000 Cranberry Springs Drive
Cranberry Township, PA 16066

Kids usually get their first taste of freedom when they learn to ride a bicycle. But ill-fitting equipment and traffic put riders at risk for falls, sprains, strains, and more serious cycling injuries.

Simple adjustments to their bikes and helmets, plus learning the rules of the road and other important bicycle safety tips, can help your young riders avoid injury.

Common Bicycling Injuries and Statistics

  • 70 percent of children, ages 5 to 14, ride bikes regularly -- making up 50 percent of all biking-related injuries.
  • Almost half of the young people hospitalized from bike-related accidents suffer traumatic brain injuries.
  • Estimates show that young riders use bicycle helmets just 15 to 25 percent of the time.
  • Choosing not to wear a helmet also makes a rider 14 times more likely, than one with a helmet, to be involved in a fatal crash.
  • Riders can reduce their risk of serious head injuries by 85 percent by wearing a bike helmet.

Bicycle injuries caused by overuse

If a bike isn't the correct size — either too high or too low — cyclists can suffer repetitive or overuse injuries in the:

Common bicycling overuse injuries include tendonitis of the knee and strains to the calf muscles.

The experts at UPMC Sports Medicine's Young Athlete Program can work with your pediatrician to evaluate and aggressively treat your young biker's injury to help prevent more serious long-term effects.

Preventing Bicycling Injuries

A good-fitting helmet

In order to prevent head injuries, a helmet must fit properly and follow the eyes, ears, and mouth rule:

  • Eyes
    • Position the helmet on your child's head, and when the child looks up, he or she should see the bottom rim of the helmet.
    • The rim should be one to two finger-widths above the eyebrows.
  • Ears
    • Make sure that the straps, when buckled, form a "V" under the ears.
    • The straps should be snug but comfortable.
  • Mouth
    • Have your young riders open their mouths as wide as possible and be sure the buckle is flat against the skin.
    • Can they feel the helmet "hugging" their heads? If not, tighten the straps.

The right bike

Proper fit doesn't stop with the helmet. The bike must fit the rider, too.

One of the more common mistakes is buying a bike a child can "grow in to," which may be economical, but it's not safe. The young rider will have a tough time controlling a bike that's too large.

There should be one to two inches of clearance between the rider's crotch and the bicycle's top tube when the rider is straddling the bike flat-footed. For a girl's bike, imagine that there is a top tube extending horizontally from the front of the bike and measure from there.

Strong legs

In addition to having properly fitting equipment, all bikers can benefit from hip, thigh, and calf strengthening to prevent wear and tear on muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

UPMC Sports Medicine's Cycling Performance program can help young bikers improve leg strength and reduce their risk of injury.

Bicycling safety tips and rules

These rules will help you ensure the safety of your young bike rider. Always model and teach proper behavior. Learn the rules of the road and obey traffic laws.

  • Ride on the right side of the road with traffic, not against it. Stay as far to the right as possible and use proper hand signals.
  • Obey traffic signals, stopping at all stop signs and traffic lights.
  • Stop and look left, right, and then left again before entering a street or crossing an intersection. Prior to turning left, look back and yield to traffic coming from behind.
  • Don't allow your child to ride in traffic until he or she displays good riding and traffic skills and solid judgment.
  • Don't allow your child to ride after dark, in fog, or in other low-visibility conditions. Those who must ride at dusk, dawn, or in the evening should have reflectors and lights on their bikes.
  • Add reflective materials to clothes and accessories to make riders more visible to motorists.

Show the Feature Bar?

Bicycling

Kids usually get their first taste of freedom when they learn to ride a bicycle. But ill-fitting equipment and traffic put riders at risk for falls, sprains, strains, and more serious injuries.

Simple adjustments to their bikes and helmets, plus learning the rules of the road, can keep your young riders peddling safely while bicycling.

Heading for Serious Injury

Did you know?

  • 70 percent of children, ages 5 to 14, ride bikes regularly -- making up 50 percent of all biking-related injuries.
  • Almost half of the young people hospitalized from bike-related accidents suffer traumatic brain injuries.
  • Estimates show that young riders use bicycle helmets just 15 to 25 percent of the time.
  • Choosing not to wear a helmet also makes a rider 14 times more likely, than one with a helmet, to be involved in a fatal crash.
  • Riders can reduce their risk of serious head injuries by 85 percent by wearing a bike helmet.

Overuse Injuries in Biking

If a bike isn't the correct size — either too high or too low — cyclists can suffer repetitive or overuse injuries in the:

Common bicycling overuse injuries include tendonitis of the knee and strains to the calf muscles.

The experts at UPMC Sports Medicine's Young Athlete Program can work with your pediatrician to evaluate and aggressively treat your young biker's injury to help prevent more serious long-term effects.

Preventing Bicycling Injuries

A good-fitting helmet

In order to prevent head injuries, a helmet must fit properly and follow the eyes, ears, and mouth rule:

  • Eyes
    • Position the helmet on your child's head, and when the child looks up, he or she should see the bottom rim of the helmet.
    • The rim should be one to two finger-widths above the eyebrows.
  • Ears
    • Make sure that the straps, when buckled, form a "V&" under the ears.
    • The straps should be snug but comfortable.
  • Mouth
    • Have your young riders open their mouths as wide as possible and be sure the buckle is flat against the skin.
    • Can they feel the helmet "hugging" their heads? If not, tighten the straps.

The right bike

Proper fit doesn't stop with the helmet. The bike must fit the rider, too.

One of the more common mistakes is buying a bike a child can "grow in to," which may be economical, but it's not safe. The young rider will have a tough time controlling a bike that's too large.

There should be one to two inches of clearance between the rider's crotch and the bicycle's top tube when the rider is straddling the bike flat-footed. For a girl's bike, imagine that there is a top tube extending horizontally from the front of the bike and measure from there.

Strong legs

In addition to having properly fitting equipment, all bikers can benefit from hip, thigh, and calf strengthening to prevent wear and tear on muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

UPMC Sports Medicine's Cycling Performance program can help young bikers improve leg strength and reduce their risk of injury.

Bicycling Safety Tips

These rules will help you ensure the safety of your young bike rider. Always model and teach proper behavior. Learn the rules of the road and obey traffic laws.

  • Ride on the right side of the road with traffic, not against it. Stay as far to the right as possible and use proper hand signals.
  • Obey traffic signals, stopping at all stop signs and traffic lights.
  • Stop and look left, right, and then left again before entering a street or crossing an intersection. Prior to turning left, look back and yield to traffic coming from behind.
  • Don't allow your child to ride in traffic until he or she displays good riding and traffic skills and solid judgment.
  • Don't allow your child to ride after dark, in fog, or in other low-visibility conditions. Those who must ride at dusk, dawn, or in the evening should have reflectors and lights on their bikes.
  • Add reflective materials to clothes and accessories to make riders more visible to motorists.

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit www.healthwise.org

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA | UPMC.com