Motocross emerged from motorcycle competitions in the UK in the early 1900s. It demands a degree of physical and mental strain from the rider. Motocross riders have excellent muscle tone and strength along with a positive frame of mind.
Flexibility and versatility are also necessary attributes in the sport as you need to move quickly and adjust routes if required. You need the stamina to control a 200 plus pound equipment with precision along the track while using every muscle required.
The design of the dirt bike is what makes the sport risky, unlike, say a race car. It has little effect on the safety of the rider. If you fall off the machine, you are going to hit the ground, or the bike is even going to hit you.
Are Dirt Bikes Dangerous?
Dirt bikes are inherently dangerous. They go fast on off-road terrains past various kinds of obstacles. You can only rely on experience and protective gear to spare you from any injuries. The rider, however, determines the level of danger they put themselves in. Riding in your backyard or a controlled track will pose lesser risks than riding in a mountain characterized by steep trails.
The risk in motocross tracks would be lower if they were devoid of jumps. Each time you jump your bike, the risk significantly increases as you go higher in the air because the level of possible impact increases the faster and the higher you go.
This study estimated that 50% of dirt bike injuries unfolded on motocross tracks. This estimation is relatively high when you consider that most riders use trails instead of motocross tracks with dirt bikes. Your level of risk, therefore, increases when you go professional. Motocross is like any other extreme sport: you will be pushing both yourself and your vehicle to the limit. Any pro rider will typically list several injuries accrued in their career.
Common Motocross Injuries
A rider’s whole body is vulnerable during racing. Jumps, twists, turns strain even the best-conditioned body. Injuries occur even with foolproof protective equipment. Some injuries may be minor and will respond to a heating pad and an aspirin. Some, however, may need surgery and rehabilitation and may even force a rider to give up riding for a while. Such injuries include:
– Broken Collarbone
The collar bone is frequently broken in most sports. When athletes fall, the natural response is to soften the land with their hands. In motocross, falls commonly happen at fast speeds, which means that their arms experience a substantial force. The collar bone’s health is vital since it delivers strength and stability to the whole shoulder.
You will be unable to raise the impacted arm due to the pain, and you may experience a grinding feeling if you try to lift the arm. The collar bone may not seem out of position if it gets broken. An area of swelling may, however, appear near the bone at the AC joint.
A sling or splint will be typically sufficient to treat a broken collar bone, worn for 4 to 8 weeks. Surgery will be necessitated in complex cases. Exercises will also be recommended to regain the shoulder’s full motion.
Avoiding collar bone injuries means not falling off the bike in addition to avoiding collisions with fellow riders.
– AC Joint Sprain
Shoulder joints are naturally complex. The AC joint lies on the outer part of the collar bone where it is linked to the front side of the shoulder blade with ligaments. It is these ligaments that are damaged in an AC joint sprain. It commonly occurs during a bad fall, and it is incredibly painful.
Recovery times will be dictated by the severity of the damage.
Rehabilitation exercises will be recommended when the rider no longer reports any pain. Mild to moderate injuries will need one to two weeks of rehabilitation, and several months for serious damage. Avoiding falls is the surest way to prevent an AC joint sprain, but because they cannot be avoided, you should be super-aware of the surrounding. Observe the riders in front of you to avoid sudden stops.
– Broken Wrists
A broken wrist is likely if a rider uses outstretched hands to break a fall. The wrist is quite complex, and the break can be clean, or the break can separate into several pieces. It results in swelling and the inability to make use of the broken wrist. A break or a bad sprain will leave an individual off the bike for a significant period of time. Surgery may be needed to realign the separated bones, after which the brake will be contained in a cast for about 6 to 8 weeks.
To avoid broken wrists, establish a clear strategy during a race so that you are aware of the landscape of the trail. A wrist guard can also protect the wrist if you sustain a fall.
– Broken Ankles
Ankles are also susceptible to sprains and breaks during motocross. Colliding with a fellow rider or even falling awkwardly from the dirt bike can lead to broken ankles. A physician will typically move the bones into re-alignment, although surgery can be done depending on the severity of the sprain. The ankle will be accommodated in a cast for 6 to 12 weeks. To prevent this occurrence, ride safely, focus on the race, and keep to the track.
– Knee Sprain
A knee sprain can be a tear or a rupture to a particular knee ligament. Commonly impacted ligaments are the anterior cruciate ligament or the medial collateral ligament. Sprains to the ligaments result from impact forces and significant stresses to the knee. If you injure the knee, assess if the pain is on the same side as the impact or the opposite side. Pain on the same side is less severe and will heal quickly, unlike pain on the opposite side. Knee surgeries are common for tears to the ACL or where a person entirely blows out the knee.
– Leg Fractures
A leg fracture occurs when a part of the bone fails to support the impact on it. The injury’s severity relies on the strength of the bone and the energy of the event. A leg fracture is incredibly stressful because a rider can be sidelined for some months. The tibia serves as the real weight-carrying bone. It has a thick core, but it can sustain an open fracture in the case of extreme impact.
A rider needs ribs not only to protect the internal organs but also to stabilize the body. Rib fractures are likely in the case of a direct blow to the rider’s chest.
Making Motocross Safe
Motocross, as an extreme sport, poses an array of risks which can be mitigated by:
– Protective Gear
A dirt biker will do better with an assortment of protective gear, the most important one being a helmet. Helmets protect the face, and as a result, the brain. The helmet will need to be strong, and at least DOT-approved. Most brands rely on carbon fiber to make their models, as they are lightweight and solid. It will also need to be well-ventilated and offer a significant field of vision.
Your feet and ankles will be well-protected by a pair of riding boots. Normal boots will be torn to shreds along the trails. The pair needs to be of good fit and comfortable. No rider will appreciate having cement blocks for boots. Replace them as soon as they exhibit signs of tear.
Dirt bike jerseys and pants are not your average pieces of clothing. They function as a protective layer and also provide ventilation for the very physical sport. Googles will prevent debris, mud, and rain from getting to your eyes while gloves will cushion your hands from the continuous friction with levers and grips.
Knee braces are vital when it comes to knee protection. They prevent a rider’s knees from contorting in awkward ways. They should ideally be lightweight and comfortable. Other protective equipment neck braces and elbow guards.
– Set Up the Bike
A dirt bike will be your companion on the track, so it is only necessary to ensure it is optimized for races. Check components like the chains, air filter, tires. Grease it up, change the oil, check tire pressure, tighten bolts, check for leaks, and clean the chain. A bike that is not well-maintained will be more prone to causing accidents. Also, get the suspension valve for your weight.
– Scout the Track
Walking the track prior to a race will offer some insight. You will know the courses to take and which to avoid. You will easily notice any soft spots to watch out for. Ensure you can view the route when riding too. Adjust quickly to different weather conditions during races.
– Bring a Friend
It is good practice to involve friends and family in your motocross pursuits so that there is a person to drive you to the clinic if anything happens and to also inform other family members.
The internet is not short on stories on the horrific injuries some dirt bikers have endured. Yes, the sport is quite risky, mainly because of the speeds and obstacles involved. But like other extreme sports, the fun lies in the exhilarating feeling only possible at these high speeds. With proper gear, good training, and a positive attitude, however, you can enjoy the sport while still protecting yourself.