Dr. Mary Gilmer Provides Cycling Injury Prevention Guidelines

Looking for safe exercise solutions and ways to combat cabin fever during COVID-19, many area residents are taking to the great outdoors, including mountain biking and cycling. As a board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Mary Gilmer of OrthoAlabama Spine & Sports encourages this trend for the health of the community, and she also wants to offer guidelines for cyclists of all ages to help them stay safe and avoid injury. Patients in need of specialized bone, joint and muscle care are encouraged to call (205) 228-7600 to be seen by Dr. Gilmer at 1801 Gadsden Highway or in Hoover at 118 Mars Hill Road. For urgent needs, visit OrthoAlabama Spine & Sports’ Orthopedic Urgent Care clinic in Birmingham, or walk into their Birmingham or Hoover office Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Dedicated to the health and safety of our community, we’re happy to see so much outdoor activity and a boom for bike riding, from mountain biking and traditional bicycling to electric cycling,” says Dr. Gilmer. “This trend is fantastic for mental and physical health, especially as COVID-19 continues, and when cyclists go out and ride, we want to make sure they know about the potential for injury and take the necessary precautions.”

Bruises, scrapes and minor cuts are all common for mountain bikers and cyclists, and orthopedic specialists frequently see broken collarbones, broken wrists and other fractures as well as muscle strains and sprains. However, more serious injuries are possible, especially if a cyclist crashes or collides with another rider or a motorist. When gearing up to go for a ride, follow these safety tips from OrthoAlabama Spine & Sports to stay safe and avoid injury:

  • Dress for success. Always wear a helmet. Helmets reduce your risk for serious head and brain injuries. Make sure your helmet (or your child’s) fits well with a secure and buckled chinstrap, does not impair vision and has approval from the American National Standards Institute. If mountain biking, wear additional safety gear, such as gloves, body armor and mountain bike-specific shoes. Additionally, do not wear any loose clothing that could get caught on wheels, gears or pedals. 
  • Mind your bike(s). Make sure the bike is suited for the area you are riding as well as the right size for you, which can help you avoid most overuse injuries and give you more control. Supervise children biking at all times, and always pay attention when riding — do not talk or text on your phone or wear headphones. Maintain the brakes, tires and gears on your bike regularly, and keep lights on your bike if you ride at night. 
  • Choose a trail right for you. When choosing a trail to ride, don’t exceed your skill level. If the trail has drops, obstacles or sections outside of your riding ability, walk those areas, especially if the trail is new to you.
  • Use extra caution on the road. If you choose to ride on roads, know all the city rules for cyclists and ride in the direction of traffic while following traffic signs and lights. Use a bike lane if there is one and signal any turns you take. Be defensive and ready to act quickly to avoid collisions, especially in intersections. Also, watch for opening doors when riding past parked cars. 
  • Take care outdoors. Avoid riding in inclement weather, wear sunscreen as needed and stay hydrated. You should drink a full bottle of water for each hour you’re riding. You’ll also need to pace yourself to avoid exhaustion — pushing yourself too hard is dangerous, especially while on a bike, where you could lose control. Try changing riding positions slightly, when able, to reduce stress on the same joints and muscle groups.

“To get out and stay active during the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in mountain biking and cycling is growing every day, and for those new to the hobby and cyclists increasing their mileage, there is a higher risk of injury,” says Dr. Gilmer. “If you think you’ve suffered a fracture, have muscular pain or experience joint instability after a fall, see an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible — if you hit your head or have bleeding that won’t stop after a few minutes, go to an emergency room or urgent care immediately.”

A Birmingham native, Dr. Gilmer graduated from The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and completed her residency in orthopedic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. After residency, she chose to do a fellowship in foot and ankle surgery. She then returned to Birmingham and joined OrthoAlabama Spine & Sports. Dr. Gilmer is board-certified in orthopedic surgery through the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and specializes in providing surgical and nonsurgical care for the foot, ankle and knee. 

To learn more about orthopedic safety or to schedule a safe in-office appointment with Dr. Gilmer or one of the many experts at OrthoAlabama Spine & Sports, call (205) 228-7600.