Dr. Cunningham: Beware of common injuries in motocross | VailDaily.com

Dr. Cunningham: Beware of common injuries in motocross

Dr. Rick Cunningham
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Having seen a number of bad knee injuries in motocross athletes, Dr. Rick Cunningham recommends a good knee brace with a knee cap protector to prevent hyperextension.
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The snow has already melted off many of the trails downvalley, and with that comes mountain biking, hiking and trail running for some and motocross for others.

Motocross is a very strenuous sport that is gaining popularity with more dirt tracks being made. Although motocross athletes wear protective gear, injuries are not uncommon.

Just this week, I saw a young male patient that had been involved in a head-on collision with another motorcyclist on a trail. Most motocross injuries involve the forearm, clavicle, femur and tibia. Head trauma and concussion is also seen.

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The American Motorcyclist Association says the following equipment is required:

Motorcycle helmet

Shatterproof goggles or faceshield attached to helmet

Protective pants

Boots that protect the ankle and foot

Gloves, chest protectors, neck braces and knee braces are recommended by the AMA.

Having seen a number of bad knee injuries in motocross athletes over the years, I would personally recommend a good motocross knee brace that prevents knee hyperextention and which has a knee cap protector.


Several studies have looked at the rate of motocross injuries in a pediatric population.

One study showed that 95 percent of injuries were orthopedic in nature. Chest injuries were also reported to be 18 percent in one study and consisted of lung contusions, spleen lacerations or a pneumothorax (where there is a puncture of the lung). In another pediatric study, there was a 18 percent incidence of loss of consciousness. Adolescents who have suffered a concussion require more recovery time than adults.

Spine injuries are less common, but these injuries can be more serious.

In one study, spine injuries accounted for 5.8 percent of fractures in a motocross population, but one-third of these resulted in permanent neurological loss. Spine fractures were more common on human made tracks compared to natural tracks outside.

Most spine fractures occur in the thoracic region (the mid-portion of the spine). These injuries are thought to occur as a result of sudden hyperflexion of the spine when landing from a jump.

Finally, there has been found to be increased degenerative changes in the spine of those participating in motocross compared to aged matched controls playing other sports.


Motocross is a sport enjoyed by many. To avoid injury, especially in kids and young adults, there should be appropriate training, the use of protective clothing and equipment (including a proper fitting helmet), and proper maintenance of one’s dirtbike.

Kids must be counseled on proper safety techniques and riding techniques to avoid injury. With kids, there should be direct adult supervision at all times.

As for concussions, many riders don’t report these injuries and they may not get the proper treatment following a concussion.

Dr. Rick Cunningham is a knee and shoulder sports medicine specialist with Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. He is a physician for the U.S. Ski Team. Visit his website at http://www.vailknee.com. For more information about Vail-Summit Orthopaedics, visit http://www.vsortho.com.

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