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Retired pro launches study into cycling injuries

Retired pro rider Chris Stockburger is conducting a study that he hopes will shed light on the causes of cycling injuries.

There was a time in the not-so distant past when the name Chris Stockburger was on the lips of every pro cycling team in the United States.

Stockburger was one of the most talented junior cyclists of the cohort that included Tejay van Garderen, Peter Stetina, and Alex Howes. He won the 2004 Tour l’Abitibi, which each year attracts some of the world’s top junior cyclists, and appeared to be on the trajectory toward the professional ranks. But in 2007, Stockburger abruptly left the sport, opting to pursue medical school instead.

Now, nearly a decade later, Dr. Stockburger (he is an orthopedic surgeon) is dipping his toe back into cycling. He has launched a research study of competitive cyclists which attempts to better understand the injuries and safety problems that are most common within the sport. The study is being conducted with Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

“There have been lots of studies that look at injury rates in different sports, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive one in cycling,” Dr. Stockburger said. “Nobody has any real idea of what the biggest issues are with crashes and injuries.”

Dr. Stockburger’s yearlong study targets both elite and amateur cyclists. It focuses on a wide range of injuries that are related to cycling, from overuse injuries such as joint soreness and tendonitis, to traumatic injuries that arise from crashes. The survey asks riders to discuss the various injuries that they have had recently and in years past, and to describe in detail how those injuries impacted their lives both on and away from the bike.

The survey takes between 15-20 minutes to complete, depending on a person’s answers. It asks cyclists to discuss their previous and current injuries, and to discuss any recent crashes they have suffered.

Dr. Stockburger believes the survey could help governing bodies such as USA Cycling and the UCI better pinpoint safety concerns in both professional and amateur cycling. The data, Dr, Stockburger says, could help governing bodies change the methods by which they design courses, arrange crowd barriers, and even treat professional cyclists after crashes.

“Hopefully it gives us some areas to target for improving safety,” Dr. Stockburger said. “The more people respond, the more data we can collect, and the more changes can come about.”

Dr. Stockburger got the idea for his study after watching his friends in pro cycling struggle with various injuries. He cites Taylor Phinney’s broken leg from the 2014 national championships, Stetina’s nearly career-ending crash at the 2015 Tour of the Basque Country, and Tejay van Garderen’s crash at the 2015 Veulta a España as examples. Dr. Stockburger also suffered a concussion in a training crash in 2004 which steered him toward the research.

“I crashed on my face and was knocked out for 30 seconds,” he said. “I don’t remember a half hour of my life.”

Take the cycling injury survey >>