The Parks Victoria Program that this project has been developed under is called ‘Healthy Parks, Healthy People’ and many health and wellbeing claims are being made about the Mountain Bike Destination. However, not all these projected benefits stack up.
Although Mountain Biking will increase fitness because of the exercise, injuries also need to be taken into account. There is also the negative impact on other users of trails in the areas most particularly walkers as there has been a decrease in recreational walking caused by conflict with bikes in Warburton.
Mountain Biking is considered an ‘extreme’ or ‘xtreme’ sport. The definition of an extreme sport is one where the participant risks serious injury. These injuries are simply ignored when these sports are promoted as ‘healthy’. The health of a sport should be decided not simply on an analysis of fitness benefits, but should always be balanced by an analysis of injuries as well. This is something that Medical Researchers and Medical Insurers are trying there best to convey to goverment with little success. It is Medical Researchers who should be deciding what is a ‘healthy’ sport – supported by good statistics. The government has refused to direct hospitals to collect information on sporting injuries and supply to the Australian Bureau of Statistics to make these vital statistics available to researchers. Most studies have to be based on more limited data from individual hospitals, insurance companies or self reporting from Mountain Bikers interviewed at events or in magazines.
This research is not factored into investment in sports and has not been a feature of the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination, despite it’s claim to increase health. Injuries are usually dismissed as a necessary risk or the choice of the rider which is fine if Parks is not selling this project under ‘Healthy Parks, Healthy People’. If our medical researchers were asked to chose the sports that balance the best of fitness with the minimum of injuries we would be in a better position to get ‘healthy’.
Osteoarthritis from old sports injuries is another cause for concern:
Then there are the costs of injuries. The average cost of a broken arm is $5,800. It is estimated that the average spend of each mountain biker day tripper to Warburton will be $80. No one on either side of the divide believes this to be likely. Many mountain bikers pack their own lunch, others will buy a pie and a coke or share a pizza. Some will go to a cafe and have a nice meal. None of these things will cost $80 a head. But taking this over inflated number it would take only one broken arm to wipe off the advantage of 72.5 day trippers to Warburton and that doesn’t include time off work or any future problems with arthritis that is so prevalent in old injury sites. It also doesn’t count ambulance fees. There are more serious injuries than broken arms and one really serious injury could cost a lifetime of care and millions of dollars.
Andrew Swan, President of the Yarra Ranges Mountain Biking Association and Councillor Jim Childs of the Shire of Yarra Ranges, both promote that we will produce champions. Champions are not healthy. Read the injury costs to the health of any champion athlete to find out.
Here an excerpt from an article about Casey Brown, one of the sports top female athlete:
“Brown had her breakout year in 2011 when she placed second at the Canadian Championships and 16th overall in the world-and after years of hard work, she was crowned the Queen of Crankworx, dominating all 15 events in 2014. She placed second in 2015 and 2016.
“It might seem crazy, but that’s quite a long time for someone to stay up on top in the brutal, injury-prone world of mountain biking. Her secret? Never giving up. “I’ve broken my pelvis, lost teeth, split open my liver, broken my ribs and collarbone, and have knocked myself out,” she says. “But injuries are just a part of the sport. When you’re going full speed down a mountain, you’re bound to slip up every once in a while. If I got hurt and just gave up, I would never know what I could accomplish in the future.”
‘It’s their choice’ – it is not simply about choice if the government supports, funds and promotes these sports. Then it becomes a deliberate influence. The Project not only talks about bringing mountain biking to school children but the Yarra Ranges Mountain Biking Association is already teaching school children.
Limiting other opportunities
Mountain Bikers have already scared most walkers off the Back Stairs track that was a favourite fitness track for walkers but is now to dangerous to walk. The Rail Trail has become an uncomfortable walk for many walkers, some of whom have stopped using it, but most have altered when they walk to avoid peak times. This alteration of behaviour does not increase fitness, it decreases it. Walking is the number one sport for participation, it is gender neutral with a near 50/50 participation in all studies and is suitable for the elderly and children. It is precisely these categories that are suffering the most although bikes have been a problem for all other trail users.
Acquired Brain Injuries
The most common mountain bike accident is when the rider falls over the handle bars. This can quite commonly cause head injuries and unfortunately that can sometimes mean brain damage. One of the recent discoveries in regard to brain injury is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Caused by accumulated knocks to the head symptoms, can include increasing mood swings, memory loss, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, confusion, depression and suicidal ideation.
Highly under- diagnosed, deaths to this condition are often written off as suicide, or other causes. CTE can only be diagnosed after death and only if the relatives chose to donate the brain to a CTE brain bank. This rarely happens, however, the first diagnosis of CTE in a cyclist has been a BMX Champion called Dave Mirra:
Discussions about CTE are arising in Mountain Biking circles: