While dedicated enthusiasts enjoy outdoor sports like hiking, climbing, and cycling year-round, many of us prefer to wait for warmer weather before heading outdoors for these popular activities. But, their rise in popularity can also increase the likelihood of injury.
Below we look at some common injuries and tips for preventing them for the top three outdoor sports: hiking, climbing, and cycling.
Skin injuries like blisters, sunburn, and bug bites are the most common hiking injuries and are easily treatable and preventable by planning ahead (making sure to apply bug spray and sunscreen, and wearing appropriate clothing) and packing a first aid kit. Other common injuries to prepare for include:
- Twisted or sprained ankle – Due to uneven terrain this type of injury can be hard to avoid. However, paying attention to the trail, wearing boots with ankle protection, and carrying a hiking stick for better balance can all help.
- Plantar fasciitis – This happens when the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes, becomes inflamed. It can cause a stabbing pain when walking, but stretching your feet and wearing proper footwear can help prevent it.
- Knee pain – Regular stretching and exercising your quads and hamstrings can help minimize tension around the joint, which is a common cause of pain. Hiking poles also help because they allow for a better distribution of weight with each step.
- Shoulder and back pain – Choosing a backpack with the proper fit, evenly distributing weight when packing, and correctly positioning the pack across your hips can help prevent back and shoulder pain. It may be beneficial to seek expert advice when choosing your pack. Stretching is also useful for preparing muscles.
Often, climbing injuries affect muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the arms and shoulders:
- Pulley sprain – The muscles in your forearm extend into long, narrow tendons which run through sheaths and are anchored by pulleys that keep the tendons gliding flush to the bones. Excessive strain on your finger tendons can pull the tendon away from the bone and sprain your pulley. Exercise can strengthen the muscles in the fingers and paying attention to movements that cause added stress on these tendons can also help prevent injury.
- Rotator cuff tears – This is a tear in your shoulder muscle due to overuse or too much weight on the muscle. Stretching is the most effective way to prevent it. You can also increase muscle strength by focusing on low-resistance exercises of the shoulder muscles, such as arm raises to the side or external rotations.
- Tendonitis – With the constant pull on muscles, inflamed tendons (tendonitis) are very common. It most often affects shoulders, elbows, and forearms, but can affect the fingers too. Strengthening and conditioning the muscles and stretching are both key to combating this injury.
Impact injuries are very common among cyclists, so bike safety is very important in preventing serious injury. Other injuries to watch for include:
- Back pain – Hours spent curled over handlebars can irritate back muscles and possibly cause nerve pain. To prevent this, strengthen your core to better support back muscles and stretch often. If you have a job that requires a lot of sitting, proper posture at work is important, as is proper positioning on the bike.
- Knee pain – Knee pain often stems from a bike fit problem, such as a saddle that is too low or incorrect cleat set up. A tight iliotibial band, the fibrous tissue that runs down the outer thigh, can also cause issues. Stretching and massage can help loosen muscles and prevent injury.
- Hot foot – A burning sensation, numbness, or pain on the underside of the foot is common for cyclists and is generally an issue with footwear. Your shoes may be too tight, your cleats may be placed incorrectly, or you may be insufficiently supported by your insoles.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I AM INJURED?
If you do experience pain as a result of your favourite outdoor activity, treatment can take many forms. Sometimes simply stopping the activity, elevating the injured area, and icing it are enough, while other injuries can involve more complex treatments. If your symptoms do not resolve, however, it’s important to speak to your health care practitioner about any pain. Your doctor might order an X-ray and ultrasound to get a picture of what’s going on in your joints, or even an MRI scan for a more detailed look.
Arthurs-Brennan, M. (2020) “Common cycling injuries: treatment and prevention.” www.cyclingweekly.com. Accessed June 12, 2022.
Mayo Clinic Staff (2022) “Plantar fasciitis.” www.mayoclinic.org. Accessed June 12, 2022.
Musholt, B. (2017) “Injury Free: The Best Rotator Cuff Exercises.” www.mensjournal.com. Accessed June 12, 2022.
South Shore Orthopedics (2019) “Common Hiking Injuries: Tips for Prevention and Treatment.” www.southshoreorthopedics.com. Accessed June 12, 2022.
Vagy, J. (2022) “How to Climb Injury Free.” www.theclimbingdoctor.com. Accessed June 28, 2022.