Background The latest bicycle technical advances and the new training protocols might have an incidence of injury occurrence in professional cycling.
Objective To analyze changes in injury incidence of a group of elite cyclist in active and compare the injury rates with those reported for an historical group (HG).
Design Epidemiologic retrospective study based on clinical oriented interviews.
Setting Clinical survey of all traumatic and overuse injuries occurred in male elite cyclists engaged in three professional teams.
Participants The HG consisted in 65 professional road cyclists surveyed from 1983 to 1995. Mean age, 25 years (range 21 32). The current series (CS) included 51 elite cyclists with a mean age of 27 (19–36). The CS was studied from 2003 to 2009.
Main outcome measures Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) and the Ekstrand 3 point scale for absence from sports activity. Injury exposure rates: injuries per racer, per year and per 1000 km of both competing and training.
Results Traumatic injuries increased from 38.4% to 48.6%. However, AIS severe lesions decrease from 51.2% to 8%. Tendinopaties were the most common overuse injuries in the HG (41.5%). Contrary, 56.6% of overuse injuries were due to muscular lesions in the CS group. In HG cyclists, the injury rates for traumatic injuries were 0.54 per racer, 0.11 per year, and 0.003 per 1000 km of training and competition. The rates for overuse injury were 0.86 per racer, 0.17 per year, and 0.005 per 1000 km. In CS cyclists, injury rates for traumatic injuries were found to be higher: 0.98 per racer, 0.24 per year, 0.007 per 1.000 km. Overuse injury rates were 1.04 per racer, 0.26 per year, and 0.009 per 1.000 km.
Conclusion Professional cyclists still in active are exposed to a double risk of traumatic injuries than those competing in the 80's and 90's. Exposure to overuse remains almost equal, but with a complete different clinical pattern imposed by the high incidence of muscular injuries.