Kiwi sports doctors are pushing for mountain biking injury prevention plans, but Rotorua event organisers say they're leading the pack.
Research released in the New Zealand Medical Journal today shows more than half of 260
riders surveyed in the 2016/2017 NZ Enduro Crown Series had taken a week or more off work at some point after injury.
Fifty-five per cent of the 224 men and 39 women riders surveyed had had a mountain biking injury requiring a week or more off work.
Nearly 20 per cent needed a month or more to recover and more than 40 per cent reported ongoing symptoms from an injury.
The Rotorua Mountain Bike Club hosts three Enduro races, in the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro series each year, and the GIANT Toa race at Whakarewarewa during Crankworx is part of the Enduro World Series.
Researchers Dr Christopher Pratt, Dr Mark Fulcher and Dr Hannah Primrose chose to survey Enduro competitors because these races involved a series of untimed ascents with timed downhill runs, reflecting the style of most recreational "weekend warrior" riders.
They used their findings to make recommendations for injury prevention plans across the country.
• Encouragement from friends and family is the best way to prompt riders to wear protective equipment
• Equipment costs deter riders but insurance companies and ACC could help with these to prevent payout costs
• Increasing rider skill and experience helps when training resources are available
• Riders who witness injuries are more likely to wear more equipment than others, and showing videos of crashes and injuries has helped in other sports
• Encouraging the professionals to use and endorse appropriate equipment is worthwhile as has worked in other sports
• Encouraging manufacturers to design more comfortable equipment, offer trials and provide data on its efficacy, would likely help
• The sponsoring of essentially a local ambulance in Rotorua is proving very successful but the large number of riders in a relatively small, confined area makes it cost-effective
The doctors said ACC had provided wrist guards for snowboarders in the past and funded orthotics in some cases, so safety equipment for mountain bikers could be financially supported similarly.
They said younger riders were the least likely to wear eyewear but were most likely to respond to safety initiatives championed by professionals.
"A memorable example of this was the use of a plastic face mask by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James removing stigma and triggering an interest among high school and collegiate basketballers."
Rotorua reaction to the study
Crankworx Rotorua event director Tak Mutu said the Rotorua event's first safety protocols were world-leading, even though the organising team didn't realise it at the time.
"We now know that because the Enduro World Series adopted a bunch of our safety protocols."
Event organiser Ariki Tibble said there had been "movement in the industry led by Crankworx for reducing stigma around anything self-preservation focused" since the study's surveys were done in 2016/2017.
"An example would be in Whistler this year they had a doctor who was an ex-semi-pro rider, and he was there doing baseline testing for concussion."
"It has become the cool thing to have cool gear," Mutu added.
"On most lift services if you're not wearing kneepads, helmets, elbow pads, you're the one that looks out of place now."
Rotorua mountain biking coach and former representative Louis Hamilton said in the past, riders who weren't top-level held back from a lot of protective gear, fearing they would look overdressed.
"But new protection policies in top competitions have made full-face helmets a requirement ... which is really good because now they're becoming the norm for riders of all levels. So I try and wear my full-face helmet with clients, so they are not worried about wearing them or looking 'silly'."
My Ride Rotorua manager Dave Mahi said in his opinion, it was not up to ACC to have to subsidise safety gear.
"They do enough by covering the injury once it has happened."
He agreed that the price of protective gear was often a large factor in what riders wore.
"You know you get what you pay for, often the cheap things you buy offer up very little in the way of protection."
An ACC spokesman said the study was a "good start" in decreasing severe mountain biking injuries.
"Simultaneously, ACC acknowledges that mountain biking and other similar activities are attractive to participants due to the unregulated nature, therefore any intervention must be well thought out."
He said funding protective equipment for sport "isn't a financially sustainable way for ACC to intervene and is essentially the responsibility of the participant".
• It is a large, growing sport, with participation rates in New Zealand estimated at 8.8 per cent, or 292,000 riders in 2013.
• A Rotorua economic impact assessment published last year found locals and visitors spent $30-$50 million on mountain biking in Whakarewarewa Forest in the 2017-18 year.
• More than 14,000 people attended the Crankworx Rotorua mountain biking festival in 2019.
• Rugby union was the biggest contributor to sports-related ACC claims in Rotorua in the five years to June 2018, making up 13.2 per cent of sports-related claims, mountain biking made up 4.1 per cent.