Vancouver Coastal Health is hoping to limit the number of mountain bikers who show up to emergency rooms with serious injuries.

Rafferty Baker 2014 Whistler Crash

Medical officials with Vancouver Coastal Health hope to reduce serious mountain biking injuries with a new social media campaign that offers prizes. (Liam Baker)

"Last season 100 mountain bikers needed major emergency surgery," said Dr. John Carsley, medical health officer with VCH in a news release.

Medical staff say they treat broken bones, concussions, internal bleeding, organ damage and head and spine injuries as a result of mountain biking.

"I went over the handlebars and landed on my head. Even though I was wearing a helmet I broke my neck in four places, the most feared injury in mountain biking," said Peter Giesbrecht who fell off his bike and landed on a pile of rocks in October, 2015. "Mountain biking is an inherently dangerous sport. My best tip for riders — ride within your limits." 

Now VCH has partnered with several mountain biking associations and clubs to promote safe mountain biking through a social media campaign called #shredsafe, which includes prizes.

"Wearing the protective gear is key," said Dr. Annie Gareau an emergency room physician with Whistler Urgent Care Centre in the release.

"About three-quarters of the fractures we see are upper extremity, so we recommend riders wear long sleeves and elbows pads in addition to the standard helmet, gloves, knee pads, and grippy shoes.

"A neck brace and body armour are a must if you ride in high speed downhill parks or take jumping features."

2015 Mountain bike injuries

  • 58 per cent occurred in Whistler.
  • 13 per cent occurred in North Vancouver.
  • 10 per cent occurred in Squamish.
  • 89 per cent of patients were male.
  • Average hospital stay: five days.

"Not surprisingly, an Alberta study showed  that bicycling faster than usual increased riders' risk of landing in the hospital by 2.6 times," said Carsley. "I know you've heard it before, but slow down. The faster you ride, the worse the injuries can be."

The campaign is also asking riders to consider taking a skills course, do proper bike maintenance and know the trail well before riding it.

with files from Rafferty Baker.