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Supercross Season and the Top 5 Dirt Bike Injuries

Supercross riders

California loves Supercross season. Six races happen right here in the state, and on April 2nd, the dirt bikes will shoot out of the gate at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Many Santa Clara residents spend their weekends on the back of a dirt bike, celebrate holidays in the dunes, and scale the mountains on a quad. Dirt sports are fun sports, but they take a toll on your body and can lead to significant injuries. About 95% of professional riders will experience an injury after a crash. These are the top 5 dirt bike injuries we could see during Supercross season.

dirt bike injury
(Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)

1. Broken Collarbones in Supercross

The collarbone, or clavicle, is the bone between the sternum and the scapula. The clavicle connects the arm and the body. Chad Reed is familiar with this break. In 2014, he suffered an injury that broke his collarbone, scapula and T1 vertebrae.

Signs of a broken collarbone

If you suffer a clavicle fracture, you will feel the pain in the immediate area of the break. Riders report hearing a snapping sound when the clavicle breaks. Most breaks happen in the middle of the clavicle. Extreme injuries will break the clavicle where it attaches. If you suffer a clavicle break, you will experience extreme pain that can accompany the following symptoms:

  • Extreme pain when lifting the arm
  • Lump or swelling on the clavicle
  • Bruising on the area
  • Drooping shoulder
  • Grinding when moving the arm

Rehabilitation for a broken collarbone

When you break your collarbone, the doctor will sling your arm. As the arm heals, it is important to seek help from a Physical Therapist. When the arm is in the sling, it will lose muscle and strength. You need to begin shoulder and arm exercises to increase mobility and strength. Physical therapy can last up to 4 months. Common rehabilitation techniques for a broken collarbone include:

  • Gentle motion exercises and pain management techniques
  • Exercise program that increases as your arm heals
  • Range of motion exercises after the surgeon determines the shoulder is stable
  • After the break heals, the physical therapist will begin strengthening and resistance workouts.
Supercross rider
(Photo by Jeff Kardas/Getty Images)

2. ACL Injury

Many dirt bike riders have experienced this painful injury. James Stewart and Ricky Carmichael are just a couple Supercross athletes who suffered ACL tears. The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is in the middle of the knee. It attaches to the tibia and the femur. The ACL’s purpose is to prevent the tibia from sliding forward. The ACL is the ligament the suffers the most trauma and injuries.

Signs of an ACL injury

The ACL does not always snap. ACL injuries include sprains, complete or near-complete tears, and in rare cases, partial tears. If your ACL suffers an injury, you will experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Tenderness and discomfort when moving
  • Knee swelling that does not go away
  • Limited range of motion

Rehabilitation for ACL injury

Supercross athletes who suffer from an ACL will likely undergo surgery because of their increased activity levels. After the surgeon reconstructs the ACL, recovery takes up to 6 months. Rehabilitation after an ACL surgery is critical to return back to sports and daily activity. Rehabilitation techniques include:

  • Protecting the constructed ACL and managing pain
  • Restoring and improving range of motion 
  • Strength training to stabilize the knee and improve strength
  • Retraining the knee to walk and move properly to maintain strength and prevent recurring injuries.

broken ankle

3. Broken Ankle

Riding boots are designed to reduce and prevent injuries to the lower extremities. Even with boots on, if your foot gets crushed or trapped, or you land wrong, the ankle can snap. 

Symptoms of Broken Ankle

Many Supercross riders know exactly how this looks and feels. If you suffer from a broken ankle, you will notice the following symptoms:

  • Significant bruising and swelling
  • Tenderness and throbbing
  • Deformity
  • Inability to put shoes on or take them off
  • Inability to put weight on the foot

Rehabilitation for a broken ankle

As long as the break does not damage the ligament of joint, a cast will do. A broken ankle can take up to 6 to 8 weeks to heal. It is important to increase range of motion and strength without putting weight on the ankle until it heals. the exercises increase as the injury heals.

broken wrist

4. Broken Wrist

After breaking his collarbone in 2003, Stewart broke his wrist in 2005. The scenarios for a broken wrist are plentiful. From whisky throttle to landing wrong, the wrist takes a lot of abuse on the bike. Many riders wear wrist guards to prevent a broken wrist.<

Symptoms of a broken wrist

Broken wrists are hard to ignore. If the wrist is broken, you will feel and notice many painful symptoms:

  • Swelling and bruising
  • Deformity
  • Numbness or stiffness in the hand
  • Pain when gripping and squeezing objects
  • Limited range of motion

Rehabilitation for a broken wrist

If you suffer from a broken wrist, your doctor will immobilize the wrist so it can heal. The doctor will use either a cast or a splint. Surgery is required only if the break accompanies damage to a local or surrounding area. Whether you receive surgery or not, once the doctor removes the cast, it is time for physical therapy.

The goal of physical therapy is to restore, strengthen and stabilize. The physical therapist will work on the following exercises:

  • Extension and flexion exercises
  • Strength and resistance moves
  • Supination and pronation techniques

Shoulder AC joint pain5. AC Joint Sprain

Andrew Short started the 2016 Supercross season with a grade four AC separation. The AC joint, or acromioclavicular joint, is composed of the ligaments that hold the collarbone and shoulder blade together. The joint can become separated or sprained. Many riders refer to the injury as a “separated shoulder.” Shoulder supports are the best defense for riders to prevent AC joint injuries.

Symptoms of AC joint injury

If you suffer from an AC joint injury, you will experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Bruising and swelling
  • Sagging shoulder
  • Pain or popping when making overhead movements and moving the joint
  • Reduced range of motion and mobility
  • Deformity at the top of the shoulder
  • Weakness

Rehabilitation for AC joint injury

Rehabilitation depends on the severity of the AC injury. Injuries range from grade one to grade six. Grades four, five and six and less common and more severe. Rehabilitation strategies include:

  • Pain management and swelling reduction
  • Muscle spasm control
  • Passive range of motion exercises
  • Active range of motion
  • Active strengthening strategies to improve strength and stability

If you suffer any of these common riding injuries, it is important to stick to an treatment and rehabilitation plan that works for you and your riding goals. Work with professionals you trust who are experts in your type of injury.