Go all out, Vail Valley " and don’t get hurt | VailDaily.com

Go all out, Vail Valley " and don’t get hurt

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyVail fitness: Dogma Athletica owner Rod Connolly, right, measures the angle Anna Menz's arm during a bike fitting Thursday in Edwards.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” Wolcott resident Linda McDonald loved to ride her road bike in Colorado’s Vail Valley, but she couldn’t ride for more than an hour without considerable lower back pain.

“It would get so painful that I had to get off the bike and stretch,” she said.

As a new summer season comes around, more people will be riding their bikes on the roads and mountains and kayaking on the rivers. However, that also means people are at risk for a whole new set of injuries.

The most common injuries from summer sports are chronic problems like tight hip muscles from cycling to more extreme injuries such as torn rotator cuffs from kayaking. They can be avoided with proper training and technique, experts agree.

McDonald’s problem is one of the most common among mountain and road bikers, said Edwards physical therapist Keri Bergeron of Evolve Physical Therapy.

Other common problems are tight hip and upper leg muscles, knee pain and numb hands, Bergeron said.

She recommends getting a proper bike fit, as well as stretching before and after riding, to battle some of the aches that come from doing the same motion over and over again in the same position.

Rod Connolly, Dogma Athletica owner and cycling coach, said he’s seen a proper bike fit take care of many cycling-related pains and injuries.

“You see so many people riding around with their necks bunched, shoulders up by their ears,” he said. “People get turned off to the sport because they’re in pain on their bike.”

When McDonald bought a new road bike and a mountain bike, she got a professional bike fit at Dogma, which involves taking meticulous body measurements and making adjustments on a stationary bike.

“I got measured and was told what kind and size of mountain bike would be good for me,” she said. “Now I love my mountain bike. I can ride for hours and hours on that.”

The changes made on her road bike also cured the back pain, she said.

“I think a fit is a must,” she said. “It’s just so much more comfortable. I feel more efficient and more powerful going up the hills.”

Kayaker Sammer Elias of Leadville was attempting to do to roll, a move used to upright a capsized kayak with your body or paddle, when his shoulder hit a rock, tearing his rotator cuff.

“There’s not really anything you can do about that,” he said with a shrug. “It’s just one of the consequences of paddling.”

Shoulder dislocations such as Elias’ make up the highest percentage of kayak injuries, said physical therapist Kathy Gwin of Vail’s Howard Head Sports Medicine Clinic.

“The force of the water on the paddle in a high position overpowers the strength of the rotator cuff muscles,” she said. “It’s most common for this to happen while surfing in a hole.”

More minor injuries, including aching or pulled shoulder muscles, are also common problems from paddling.

“I’ve never had anything major happen,” said kayaker Tom Doherty of Twin Lakes. “However, I’ve had a lot of pulled shoulder muscles, mostly from overextending my arm.”

Kayakers naturally tend to sit in a hunched position in the boat, which limits how far the shoulder muscles can move, Bergeron said. After repeating the paddling motion, it’s not uncommon for those muscles to become pinched or strained, she said.

Both Bergeron and Gwin said they recommend strengthening the upper body in the gym, as well as stretching the chest and arm muscles before and after kayaking.

“I always try to stretch when I remember,” Doherty said. “I notice it’s when I don’t that the injuries happen.”

For both sports, one of the surest ways to avoid injuries is to work your core muscles. When the abdominal and back muscles are weak, more pressure is put on other muscles, experts said.

Connolly said that many cyclists benefit from yoga and other core exercises. He tends to get lower back pain on the bike, especially on long climbs, he said.

“I’ve noticed that goes away if I do yoga, and am diligent about doing my core workout,” he said. “Yoga makes you much more athletic on the bike, which is especially important for mountain bikers who are trying to be nimble getting on and off the saddle.”

Kayaker Cory Glackin said she’s never had any injuries from paddling, something she attributes to a strong core from Pilates and telemark skiing.

“Especially for women, kayaking is a lot more core,” she said. “Guys can usually muscle through.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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