Mountainbiking injuries are rising as more riders take to the trails around Nelson and Tasman. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport

Bike injuries jump 300%

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The growing popularity of mountainbiking in Nelson region is resulting in a jump in the number of sport-related injuries with almost three times more mountainbikers being admitted to Nelson Hospital’s emergency department than five years ago.

Nelson Marlborough Health this week released figures that showed rugby is the most injury-prone sport with 22 to 27 per cent of injuries from 2012 to 2016.

However, mountainbiking is closing the gap, increasing from seven per cent of the 1446 sporting injuries in 2012 to 20 per cent of the 1254 injuries last year, to move ahead of soccer [10 per cent], netball [nine per cent] and basketball [five per cent].

Although Nelson Mountainbike Club secretary Paul Jennings says he is concerned about the increase in injuries, he is not surprised because of the explosion in the number of riders.

“The number of riders in the club has increased from 800 three years ago to about 2000 this year and we don’t represent every mountainbiker in the Nelson region,” Paul says.

“There’s probably around 5000 regular mountainbikers out there now and it’s an extreme sport, so it doesn’t surprise me that there are so many injuries.”

Paul says the club is taking steps to be proactive to try and reduce the number of injuries, including improving signage on mountainbike trails.

The signs, which inform riders of the grade or difficulty of trails so that they don’t attempt anything too steep or technical, are a key part of mountainbike trails in the Codgers Mountainbike Park in Nelson, Silvan Forest in Richmond and the Kaiteriteri Mountainbike Park, he says.

Coaching is also helping reduce injuries because mountainbiking is “a steep learning curve” and too many riders jump in at the deep end.

He says the Krankin’ Kids coaching programme is attended by hundreds of children aged seven to 15 and is playing a key role in up-skilling riders.

However, Paul concedes part of the problem is the lack of intermediate, or grade three, trails that are suitable for the majority of riders and the club needs to look at building more of these trails.

“One of the problems is the lack of progression for mountainbikers. We have the Tasman Great Taste Trail and quite a few hard trails but not enough in between and we need to address that, especially in Nelson.”

Paul says the club would also like to work closely with Nelson Marlborough Health to identify where the injuries are occurring to see if there were any “black spots” on the region’s trails.

The club would be able to modify those trails to make them safer and reduce the chance of injury.