Race Face #189: DIRTBIKE PAIN


Words Scott Bishop

Riding a dirtbike can cause injury — we all know that. Not just your regular run-of-the-mill sports injuries, either, like pulling a hamstring or tweaking a knee; there are also several injuries that happen in the course of riding a dirtbike that are unique to our sport. Next time you get one of the following injuries, try it explaining it to your GP and see how that goes for you.


To a dirtbike rider, this is pretty self-explanatory. Telling your four-walls-bound, university-educated, not-living-in-the-real-world, soft-handed GP is going to take some doing.

Seat bounce-back happens to riders mainly competing in supercross who need to do a lot of the jumps off the seat. The pressure it puts on your back shows up in the following days when you’re hunched over looking at your own toes because you can’t straighten up.

Sitting down up a steep supercross-style ramp with your spine trying to drive a hole through your helmet while the seat does the same to your butt cheeks makes it easier to clear obstacles directly out of a turn where you need extra height — but it doesn’t do your body any favours. Doing it once is OK, without too many ongoing issues. Doing it for two practice sessions, three heats and a 20-lap final has you walking like a Thunderbirds puppet the moment you get off the bike.

It’s painful, certainly no fun and it’s not in any medical journal. Even the internet doesn’t have the answers for seat bounce-back, although Google is on the job as we speak because that guy Google knows everything.


It might have originated on a Yamaha but now it’s jumped across all the brands and is spreading faster than Ebola. After a long day of riding, take a look at the top of your thumb or the webbing between your thumb and pointer finger. If that skin is peeled up like a tin of spaghetti, you have YZ thumb.

There is no known cure for YZ thumb. Sure, grips, grip donuts and even a different handlebar bend will help and slow the onset of YZ thumb but there’s no escaping it. Spend a day in the saddle and you will get YZ thumb on both thumbs and need sports tape to continue riding in the coming days and weeks.

Plus there’s a hidden element to YZ thumb that surfaces later that night. Jumping into a shower after a big day is usually bliss but YZ sufferers soon find that the water flowing over the exposed and sensitive skin is torture. It has reduced tougher men than I to tears.


This isn’t unique to dirtbikes but the name and the consequences are a lot more serious to dirtbike riders. The medical professional call it carpel tunnel syndrome and there are countless pages, books and even surgical procedures claiming to remedy the problem — but the bottom line is you are never cured of arm pump.

Athletes in other sports get arm pump but there’s a real danger in this type of injury when riding a dirtbike. With no feeling in your hand, arms and fingers, combined with no grip strength and next to no movement due to rock-solid forearms, trying to keep a high-powered dirt cycle under control is useless. You don’t spear into the crowd if you play baseball with arm pump. You don’t plough through fellow competitors because you can’t even pull on the front brake if you play football with arm pump. No, arm pump is serious stuff and only heightened by the fact that you have no control of the 100kg missile you’re straddling.

Having serious arm pump means you can’t even get yourself off the bike. You need to call a mate over so he can peel your fingers back off the grip one digit at a time — and that’s just humiliating.


Is there anything worse than this, following a huge day at a dry, dusty motocross track, when every time you blow your hooter or clear the nostrils all you get is thunder a pile of dirt into what you used to call your snot rag?

Leave those bad boys in there too long and your nose becomes rock solid, full of all the material you breathed in, swallowed and got roosted by on the weekend. And dirt boogers are no laughing matter: your nose hurts, you can’t get a big breath of fresh air and it changes your voice to a throaty Darth Vader growl.

I’ve only scratched the surface here with dirtbike injuries. What about having to live through the nasty social virus of helmet hair? What about calf burn? I’m talking about the real calf burn when your leg gets too close to the exhaust on your bike and it sets fire to your boots, pants and tattoos your calf. This issue has slowed on the newer bikes but it’s still a nasty every-weekend occurrence for many riders.

And finally, the worst injury of all: fire balls. Yep, when the gas cap works loose and the petrol spills onto your man parts and sets your goolies on fire. Try explaining that one to Doctor Nolife!

Scott Bishop
About Scott Bishop 49 Articles
Scott Bishop is the most experienced dirt bike test dummy in Australia and perhaps the world.