The Enduro World Series spent three years studying the health & safety impacts of mountain biking on its athletes, and now present a comprehensive medical study offering their findings & recommendation. Not only applicable to enduro, the study gives an overall look at the real injuries & concussion risk facing all mountain bikers, and how to deal with those risks…

EWS Enduro Mountain Bike Medical Study

EWS Enduro Mountain Bike Medical Study, comprehensive clinical athlete mountain bike study, highlighting injury & concussion risk

photos & graphics courtesy of EWS

Likely the largest medical study ever to specifically address mountain biking, EWS utilized their enduro race format to take a focused look at the real injuries & risks that face all mountain bikers across all disciplines. One part of their study looked exclusively at how & why athletes were injured during EWS race events, while the other was a broad survey of the injuries that have impacted mountain bikers from all backgrounds and all skill levels, in & out of competition.

Overall the findings show that in the course of two full 10-race EWS seasons, 9% (or 1 of 11) of all athletes were actually injured as a part of racing the EWS. While that sounds like a lot, for comparison 24% of all MTB athletes competing at the Rio Olympics were injured during the summer games alone. When you look at the actual rate of injuries per race, and the days lost per injury, the EWS stacks up quite favorably relative to other sports. Not surprisingly there were a lot of shoulder and/or collarbone injuries. But presumably due to the good protection offer by helmets, the rate of race event concussions was deemed to be low, and with mild severity. Of course, we all spend more time riding outside of races, so it is also important to employ injury prevention (& caution) outside of competition.

The study reached conclusions recommending better communication about concussions. Although they are relatively rare, mountain bikers (especially amateur, and those outside of competition) in general did not always get proper treatment or follow-up care for head injuries, nor did they always heed accepted advice to take time off the bike post-concussion. EWS also suggest a need to look deeper at preventing those common shoulder injuries.

The report of the EWS MTB medical study is an easy-to-read dozen pages or so with simple graphics, so it’s worth pretty much every mountain biker to take a few minutes and go all the way through it. You can download the full PDF here. The research itself was completed by Dr. Debbie Palmer at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. It was funded by the Enduro World Series who used their own membership fees to support the study. That sounds like one of the most worthwhile applications of start fees I have seen, and we suggest all bikers take a look at the study and share it with your riding buddies.


  1. roadstain on

    Things to take into consideration – that seem to be left out.

    “Racing” we take far more risks than we do while we are JRA or on a weekend ride. While there is always a risk on any bicycle, the risk is far higher in a race environment (as pertaining to the Rio example). If you are not willing to take a risk, you have no business racing, let alone at that level. Thinking that a rate of incident during a race has any bearing on a weekend at the park is simply cause for needless paranoia.

    The number of traumatic injuries are no higher than ever in the past. Just now we have the internet to hear about every faux pas that happens, where ever it happens, seconds after it happened (seen more than one person get up, take out the phone, and immediately post an image to Facebook or what ever).

    I am not convinced in any tangible way that MIPS is any safer than a Bell V1 from the 1980’s…more safe than a Specialized Sub6 from the same era? Sure, maybe – then again, the dynamics of how a helmet functions has changed drastically from then to now….(we also do not put neon lycra covers on our helmets to match our seat cover and bar tape)

    • -s on

      I may be alone here, but I find that I am less prone to injury when I am racing. Some how my mind works differently when I am competing leading me to not overthink things and just ride like I am supposed to. Riding with buddies is different; we do stupid stuff. This is why I am currently nursing a broken arm back to health.

      • TimE on

        I find that I take more risks in training and practice. The injuries in Rio were mostly during practice. Riders are learning the course, where they can take risks. By the time the race starts they have it all programmed into their brains so they raise their performance bar.
        helmets work. MIPS works. It’s proven. It’s stupid to go back to 90’s arguments around the relevance of helmets.

        And why not Don neon shoe covers. Fantastic idea!!

  2. Gerry on

    We can’t presume anything about the “good protection offered by helmets” without at least knowing how many impacts did not result in injuries.

    • Robin on

      That wouldn’t be enough. You need to know the dynamics of impacts in crashes to the head and whether those impacts were likely to cause head injury or not. The Virginia Tech test procedure is based on the analysis of typical head impact forces and moment and how likely those forces and momenta are to cause head injury. As such tests like those done at Virginia Tech’s Helmet Lab can give a good indication of the protection tested helmets offer.

      • Gerry on

        That will tell you about the helmet absorbing energy, yes.

        My comment was in response to the helmet affecting the injury rate.
        Are only 9% taking a head impact and suffering some level of head injury?
        Is everyone taking head impacts and 81% are fine?

  3. Emeterio de la Rosa on

    What about low back inujuries? not comming from a crash but for riding mtb? I have ddd and I’m just 40 I always wondered if this happen for mtb…


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