Motocross was developed from motorcycle competitions in the early 1900s in the UK. These off-road motorcycle races take place on closed circuits and usually incorporate many jumps.
Almost all (95%) motocross riders have experienced an injury at some point in their careers. Injuries have been more common as a direct result of freestyle motocross where tricks and stunts are prevalent, but all participation in motocross carries with it a certain level of risk.
Which injuries do riders come up against the most?
Injury: Broken Collarbone
Sustaining a broken collarbone is a fairly common injury outside of motocross. When we fall, our natural reaction is to put out our hands to soften our landing. Therefore it is probably unsurprising to learn that broken collar bones are one of the most common injuries in motocross. When a rider falls from their bike, their reaction is to attempt to break their fall with their outstretched arms. Falling at high speed means that their arms experience a large force, which can cause injury to the collarbone.
The majority of collarbone breaks will be treated with a splint and a sling, which will need to be worn at all times for somewhere between 4 and 8 weeks. In complex cases, surgery may be required. Under the guidance of a physiotherapist, exercises will be gradually introduced in order to regain full movement within the shoulder. When movement has been regained, strengthening exercises will then be introduced.
Preventing broken collarbones
Over half of all injuries sustained in motocross happen at bends in the course. Trying not to fall off the bike is clearly the best prevention from a broken collarbones and, as such, avoiding collisions with other riders, particularly at bends, is paramount.
Doing everything possible to avoid serious injury to the neck is of utmost importance. There are many implications and consequences that can come from sustaining trauma to the neck. As a result, wearing a neck brace is strongly recommended.
Injury: Acromio Clavicular Joint Sprain or Shoulder Dislocation
Shoulder joints are complex in structure. If a rider manages to avoid breaking their collarbone during a bad fall, sustaining an AC joint sprain is highly likely. This particular ligament is quite a weak part of the shoulder and therefore prone to injury. Also known as a shoulder separation, this is an incredibly painful injury.
Recovery times will be wholly dependent on the severity of the injury. Rehabilitation exercises can only begin when an individual is no longer experiencing any pain. For mild to moderate injuries, this will usually take somewhere between 1 and 2 weeks and up to a few months for severe injuries. All exercises and stretches will be gradually increased and are all geared towards recovering a full range of pain-free movement
Preventing AC joint sprain
Again, trying not to fall from the bike is the main form of protection, but clearly it cannot always be avoided. Remain especially aware of other riders in front as a sudden need to stop may result in a rider being thrown over the handlebars of their bike. In these cases, it is highly likely that the rider will land on one of their shoulders.
Shoulder supports are an essential piece of protective equipment for those who have suffered a shoulder injury before, but they are also strongly recommended for everyone.
Injury: Broken Wrist
Another potential injury stemming from falling is a broken wrist. The wrist is complex in structure and any injury is very painful. Breaks can be clean or in more severe cases, the bone may break into several pieces.
A bad sprain or break will leave a rider off their bike for a substantial period of time. Surgery may be required to realign the bones, and then the break will be placed in a cast for between 6 and 8 weeks. After some time in a cast, typically physiotherapy will be required in order to fully regain strength and movement.
Preventing broken wrists
Ensuring that you have a clear strategy for a race will help since you will have an idea as to what the course entails and how best to avoid sustaining a fall. Not everything can be planned for however, and as such, wearing a wrist guard can offer additional support and help to reduce the force placed upon the wrist from a fall. This can help to avoid a break altogether.
Injury: Rupture of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament
The ACL is responsible for connecting the thigh and shinbone. In motocross, landing a jump whilst the knee is bent may cause damage to this ligament.
Total recovery time from an ACL injury can take anywhere up to a year. Surgery will be required to repair the damage and then a period of physiotherapy will be required. This will take a lot of patience and dedication in order to ensure that the healing process is as successful as it possibly can be.
Preventing AC ligament ruptures
With this injury in particular, prevention is key. Even after extensive rehab, some motocross riders have difficulty controlling their bikes, especially when it comes to safely performing jumps and tricks.
Knee braces are a must-have piece of safety equipment. Whilst initially they may feel bulky or uncomfortable and they can be an investment, their ability to protect from serious injury means they are not to be overlooked.
Injury: Broken Ankle
Like shoulders and wrists, ankles are particularly complex and prone to injury during motocross. Falling awkwardly from the bike, or even colliding with another rider can result in a break or a fracture.
Following a broken ankle a doctor may need to move the bones back into alignment, or in the event of a more complex injury, surgery may be needed. The ankle will then be placed in a cast for between 6 and 12 weeks. Rehabilitation supervised and led by an experienced physiotherapist is vital in order to regain strength and movement once the bones have healed.
Preventing broken ankles
Landing awkwardly following a fall or accidentally colliding with another rider is often unavoidable as these happen at high speed. Ensuring that you are riding safely at all times, fully concentrating on the race, and avoid taking unnecessary risks will always help, as will wearing the correct protective clothing.
Reinforcing the delicate ankle area with a brace gives additional strength and protection. There are many varieties of boot available, but investing in a dedicated pair of motocross boots is advised. They are designed to offer increased protection for ankles and feet, therefore reducing the risk of injury in these areas.
In such a dangerous sport, there are many other must-have pieces of safety protection and equipment that can help to prevent serious injury.
The importance of a good quality helmet cannot be overstated. Ensuring the protection of your head with a properly fitting and secure helmet could mean the difference between serious injury and a lucky escape.
A Pair of Goggles
Eye protection is also paramount. Ensuring that vision is not obscured by dust and dirt during a race can help to prevent crashes or other accidents.
Chest protectors come in many forms. One that supports and shields both the chest and back will greatly help to protect damage to internal organs from crashes and falls.
Moto socks may seem like a simple piece of kit, but they can help to avoid irritation from other safety equipment such as knee braces. Socks will provide a small amount of additional padding as well as maximising comfort for your feet whilst wearing protective boots.
All riders are encouraged to learn what it means to ride with a strategy and proper defensive techniques. Only participating when you are completely fit and healthy will ensure that you are alert, and recovery times are likely to be reduced if injury does occur.
Many motocross courses sensibly instil a speed limit, and adhering to that limit at all times is a strict requirement. The start of the course should not have any jumps, as there will be a high volume of riders in a relatively small space, meaning that risks are amplified. The course cannot have any obstacles.
Even with all guidelines in place and with all riders possessing in-depth knowledge of motocross, the nature of the sport means that accidents will still occur.