Understanding the body-mechanics of a cyclist

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Massage has a long and proud association with the sport of cycling, with the soigneur (pronounced ‘swan-year’) being an integral member of the professional cycling team. As a recreational sport, cycling is experiencing rapid growth, with an ever increasing number of people taking up the sport, both on-road and off-road (in the form of mountain biking). This has been partly due to the extensive media coverage given to events like the Tour de France (especially with the phenomenal success of Lance Armstrong). The other reason is that, being non-weight bearing, it has allowed many people who otherwise may have struggled to take part in regular exercise, to do so with little risk of injury. However, injuries do occur, and therapeutic massage therapy can be a valuable tool in ensuring that these injuries are kept to a minimum. When one considers the high speeds that are attainable on a bicycle, as well as the added danger of motor cars, pedestrians and other obstacles, it is easy to see that by far the most significant injuries are of a traumatic nature. These range from skin abrasions and lacerations, through fractures and sprains, to the more serious head injuries. For these reasons, any massage therapist that is involved with a cycling team needs to be highly competent with basic first aid techniques, and to ensure that the first aid kit is adequately stocked. Furthermore it is important that the massage therapist is also aware of past accidents, as these may have resulted in altered biomechanics, as well as possibly being the source of the presenting symptom e.g. headaches and/or muscle spasm due to whiplash. However, for most massage therapists the problems that the cyclist brings into our practice is of a more chronic nature. These can be sub-divided into complaints that are due to the specific posture associated with cycling, and those that are due to overuse of particular musculo-tendonous units. In order to better understand these injury patterns we need to understand the biomechanics of cycling. The legs The power required to propel a bicycle forward is generated primarily by the gluteus maximus and quadriceps muscles, with added power coming from the hamstrings, gastrocnemius and soleus myscles, as well as the iliopsoas. It is worth noting that whilst recreational cyclists rely on a downward push on the pedals, the elite cyclist also pulls the pedal back up, thereby substantially increasing the total power output. Unfortunately, this also means that there is little chance of recovery for the muscles. Because of the cyclist’s position on the bicycle, the leg muscles are unable to work through their full range of motion, and are forced to operate mainly in their middle and inner range....

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Therapeutic massage for common cycling injuries

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Cycling season is around the corner again and league rides are taking place on the weekends, attracting keen cyclists from all over. For these people training is a means of attaining new personal best times in the next Argus Cycle Tour, or simply to shed the extra kilo’s they  gained during the winter months. This means these cyclists will be pushing their bodies to the limit, often resulting in muscles strains and injuries. Among these cyclists are a fair number of people who regularly visit therapeutic massage therapists. This article investigates common cycling injuries, the causes thereof and the role therapeutic massage therapists can play in treating it. The list of injuries include: ·   Patella femoral pain, ·   Achilles tendonitis and, ·   Neck and shoulder pain. Cycling is a low impact sport, resulting in rapid recovery as there is less stress and strain placed on the joints and muscles. Most injuries are due to poor bike set-up or improper riding techniques and biomechanics. The biomechanics of cycling involves two phases, a power phase and a recovery phase. The power phase occurs when the pedals move between 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock and the recovery phase between the 6 o’clock and the 12 o’clock position. The power phase delivers the most force and generates the momentum. This force is produced via the extension of the lower limb. When pedaling, the largest force produced acts through the knee up to between 4 000 and 5 000 times an hour therefore the slightest incorrect distribution will result in a knee injury. It is important to understand the actions of the upper and lower muscles to understand the role they play during the power phase to effectively support the cyclist. The rectus femoris is one of the quadriceps femoris group of muscles and is responsible for flexion of the hip and extension of the knee. The gluteus maximus is also responsible for extension of the hip, as well as external rotation of the hip and some of the lower fibers assist with adduction. Posteriorly situated, the biceps femoris, one of the three hamstring muscles  play a role in hip extension, as well as knee flexion and external rotation of the knee and hip. The other two hamstrings, the semitendinosus and semimembranosus have the same actions namely extension of the hip, flexion of the knee and internal rotation of the hip and knee. The gastrocnemius and the soleus are responsible for plantar flexion of the ankle. Because the gastrocnemius also attaches above the knee joint, it assists with flexion of the knee. The recovery phase contributes to the overall power delivery by the upward pull of the attached shoes via the flexors, hip flexors,...

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Flip-side Finesse – Champion cyclist turns massage therapist for other champions

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With more and more fellow therapeutic massage therapists wanting to explore the world of professional cycling teams, experienced therapist Julie Briggs, shares her insights into the daily routine of a massage therapist working with cyclists. She also offers suggestions of what might be helpful when massaging. Julie has successfully combined her experiences as a mountain bike champion with her massage expertise. Every year since 1997 she has been awarded provincial colours for mountain biking and national colours in 1998, 1999 and 2001. Her selection for the South African Mountain Bike team has taken her to , and the . It was after completing a Therapeutic Massage Therapy course with the Cape Institute of Allied Health Studies and registering with the Allied Health Professions Council (SA) that Julie turned her hand to massaging in earnest. From 2005 to 2007 Julie worked at the Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike race. In 2005 she joined the support team of the South African National Road Cycling team in and in 2006 Julie was off to with them. The same year also saw her working with the Excel Cycling team Giro in 2006 and the Harmony/Schwinn Cycling team Giro in 2007. Being a therapeutic massage therapist on a professional cycling team must be the best way to see and understand the cultures of the world, but to say that it is very hard work, is an understatement. The massage therapist who travels with a cycling team is expected to be involved in the many other activities apart from just massage. I have even landed up dressing wounds and feeding a cyclist in hospital who had a drip in one arm the other arm in a sling! A typical day begins at 5 am. You are expected to prepare the drinks and /or food parcels that will be consumed during the race, pack the race cars and get the riders and their bicycles organized.  The therapist’s next task is to drive the back-up cars behind the cycle race. This also involves controlling the radios and feeding the riders (typically there are six riders in a team). Fortunately cycle races also take one to some of the most beautiful parts of the world and the drive affords you the opportunity to take in the exquisite scenery. As the race finishes at the end of each race day, the massage therapist’s first task is to serve the riders’ post-race recovery food and drink. Thereafter, you have to get them to their hotel so that they can wash and freshen up.  Hygiene is critical. Many good riders have had to abandon races due to saddle sores and other related conditions. Only once that’s all done, can the therapist...

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