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      Mountain biking and injuries go hand in hand

      For some mountain bikers, injuries can be a dime a dozen, even among veteran bikers, and when accidents happen, occupational therapists like Aaron Lautenschlager of M Therapies at Marquette General Hospital step in to save the day. Lautenschlager specializes in hand therapy, where injuries are most commonly seen among mountain bikers.

      "About 85 percent of all mountain bike riders receive some type of injury. Generally, most of them are minor in nature - skin abrasions, soft tissue injuries like tendonitis," said Laughtenschlager, Certified Hand Therapist.

      But sometimes bikers aren't so lucky, and injuries can become debilitating.

      "The most common or severe accidents are generally a fracture or dislocation, most commonly in the upper extremities of the wrist. This usually results when the person is thrown from the bike, over the handlebars, and they brace themselves before they hit the ground and then the bone usually fractures," Laughtenschlager said.

      Laughtenschlager says severe injuries are normally treated with a cast or splint for six to eight weeks depending on the injury. Then follows four to six weeks of therapy where the muscles are stretched and strengthened. The majority of bikers make full recoveries, but it's best to prevent injuries. Stores like Down Wind Sports in Marquette offer all the protection a biker will need.

      In the event of a fall a good pair of gloves can protect your hands, and elbow and knee pads can protect the joints, but no piece of safety equipment is more important than a properly sized helmet.

      "You should never ride your mountain bike without a helmet. It's not a law to wear your helmet, but it really should be. On a mountain bike, trees hurt, unexpected things happen," said Jeff Stasser, Co-owner of Down Wind Sports.

      Stasser also recommends biking to your skill level. Know which trails are too advanced. You should also avoid unmarked trails.

      "We're pretty lucky in Marquette because there are really trails for everybody's ability. So you can get out and ride on real easy trails if you're just getting into the sport," Stasser said.

      It's also a good idea to make sure your bike is well maintained, and that your brakes and tires are in good condition. Also be sure to ride with a partner, but if you do ride alone, let others know where you are and carry a cell phone.