The 2013 Tour de France is well under way with mixed fortunes for several Australian riders. The riders have to keep their bodies in top condition day after grueling day in the saddle. I wanted to take the time to discuss a few of the major injury issues facing these athletes which are also relevant to all levels of cycling.
The 2013 tour will cover 3,404 kilometers over 21 stages. The longest distance in a single day will be the 15th day at 242km. The most common injury for these riders is one of overuse or repetitive strain.
3 common injuries:
Patellofemoral syndrome (patella tracking disorder) is when the knee cap tracks off to the side of the knee rather than gliding straight up and down. This can result from a muscle imbalance, muscle tightness or even trauma such as a fall. This will manifest often as pressure and pain diffusely around the knee and even lead to giving way of the knee.
Treatment includes icing the knee after exercise to reduce any inflammation collecting in the knee. Then stretching the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh as well as massage to the area. Occasionally the knee cap may be strapped to help reduce tension or guide it back to its correct position. It is quite common to see cyclists taped up with flexible kinesio tape that won’t impede their cycling action.
Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome is a condition where the band of tissue starting on the pelvis and continuing to the outside of the knee creates friction over the bony prominence on the side of the knee. This can lead to inflammation, pain and is commonly seen in cyclists and runners.
Ways to treat this include using a foam roller to release tension in the ITB, a bit like a rolling pin for the body. Stretching above and below the ITB such as glute stretches and calf stretches. An osteopath would commonly work at mobilizing the joints at the knee and hip as well as lower back. Exercise prescription may occur if this is a result of muscle imbalances.
Mechanical low back pain and stiffness, after hours on the saddle the lower lumbar spine has been held in a flexed position for many hours with strong muscles pulling onto it.
The riders will spend time with their masseurs (soigneur) after the stage finishes and will then often see an Osteopath as many teams including Cadel Evans have them in their medical team. Gentle local movements to the hips, low back and stretching will help alleviate stiffness.
Drew Blatchford is one of the five osteopaths at Wantirna Osteopathy. A competitive mountain biker since a teenager has seen Drew compete on the British national and New Zealand national series, in North America and since moving to Melbourne the local Australian racing scene. Major achievements this year include winning the expert male (19-29) Karapoti classic 50km in New Zealand and a top 50 from 690 finishers in the 100km Victorian Otway odyssey.