Cycling Injuries and History Lessons


For all you knuckleheads who embraced the refrain, ‘What do I need to learn about history for; I’ll never use it’,… read on.

As a chiropractor with over 20 years of experience listening to complaints of aches and pains, I learn about as much from hearing the ‘history’ of an injury as I do from the exam. If I’d taken heed to my own experience regarding injuries and history, I’d have saved myself a lot of pain and frustration.

During my first year of road bike racing I developed some serious saddle problems. There wasn’t a saddle out there that I didn’t learn to despise. It came to a head after a particularly long and nasty race (Leesville Gap) which left me rubbed raw on the left side of my netherland region.

I came home and listed my expensive Specialized Toupe saddle on e-bay and started riding a cheap saddle that had more paddling.

But the problem still persisted, and the problem was that I was sitting too far to the right on the saddle, with my right sitbone not even touching the seat. I’d noticed for quite some time that my left foot was ‘toeing down’ a lot at the end of my pedal stroke and half of my ‘genius within’ concluded that my problem was that the excessive toeing down on the left was pushing me off my saddle to the right. I was only half correct!

It took a scooter ride by my wife help solve the problem.

She was following along on the scooter during one of my training rides when she noticed that I was sitting a full inch to the right on my saddle. To me, it felt like I was sitting centered. When I shifted to the left until she told me I was balanced, I felt dreadfully uncomfortable. But now I knew that I really had a problem. Not only was the saddle problem becoming unbearable, but there was no way I was pedaling efficiently while sitting off to the side like I was.

It took hours and hours of training time while thinking this over before I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment. And it was HISTORY to the rescue.

I’d taken up cycling after severely injuring my right achilles tendon during a training run years ago. I’d tried to run off and on for five or six years after the event, but only furthered the problem, until I developed an unbalanced gait. The predominant characteristic of my unnatural gait was not toeing off at the end of my stride on the right side.

Well, there it was!

My cycling problem wasn’t excessive ankle motion on the left side of my pedal stroke after all. It was no ankle motion on the right. It wasn’t so much that achilles pain kept me from using my right calf, it was the years of faulty neuro-muscular programming that were to blame.

So what’s the lesson to be learned? Search your memory banks for any and all events of the past which may explain the source of your current injuries.

After all, the solution may be in the history.

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4 Responses to Cycling Injuries and History Lessons

  1. I think the problem for many is knowing their major problem and doing nothing about it or pursuing an ineffective treatment.

    For myself, when I was in elementary school, my gym teacher felt I my determination to reach the top of the climbing rope, despite being considerably slower than my classmates, was an act of stubbornness. He shook the rope after telling me tome come down, causing me to lose my footing and subsequently lose my grip on the rope falling 10-15 feet onto a one inch gym mat, landing on my back.

    I had lost a lot of endurance potential because of that injury. Running or skating would become painful quickly, so I never built up endurance and devoted any sporting endeavors to be that of a lesser-motion position (outfield, goalie, etc.). When I began cycling, I was able to ride considerably longer and at higher output than other sports I had tried, largely because I could keep my back in place.

    I had seen several doctors and chiropractors to little avail. I recently went under care of a chiropractor whom is an upper cervical specialist. I am finally getting the results that I have wanted for years. Now I can effectively use my low-back and core muscles to cycle harder and faster (or easier and longer). This change has allowed me to sell my car for an Xtracycle and take a bike everywhere I need to go.

    • admin says:

      Brandon,
      Thanks for sharing your story. I’m a chiropractor as well. Sometimes when I’m waxing philosophical about my contribution to society, I wonder how much value there is in merely alleviating pain. Then I realize that enabling people to pursue movement and activity contributes to improved over-all health; both physical and mental health. You have noble integrity to have persevered through a lot of physical adversity.

      When I consider the exercising history of my patients, many are directly shaped by injuries sustained in childhood.

      Your experience with upper cervical chiropractic is interesting. There was a time period in the history of chiropractic when the pendulum swung largely to only upper cervical adjustments. While that isn’t how I choose to practice, I do acknowledge that it can have a powerful effect in cases in which nothing else is helping. The upper cervical spine has a profound effect on much of our body.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Ron Fritzke, D.C.

  2. Jennifer says:

    So true, people often don’t think back far enough or put two and two together. What did you then do about it? And did it work? (Or is it too soon to tell?) I’d love to hear the follow up.

    • admin says:

      Jennifer,

      Sometimes I’ll get an epiphany during the hours and hours of solitary riding. The ‘aha’ moments often follow times when I’ll ‘back away’ from something that I believe to be true (ie, I have too much movement in my left ankle). I’m often helped by the mantra ‘Don’t believe everything you think’.

      I’ve made a conscious effort to move my right ankle more, or at least pedal with my right toe pointed down more than it had been. It’s becoming more natural, but regresses at times. My comfort on the saddle has improved considerably. Consciously working on the problem gives me something to do during the parts of the ride that don’t have another ‘purpose’.

      Did this blog post pique your interest because you have experienced an injury that was helped by remembering an old contributing event?