Accidents during Nationals kept SolVista bike patrol hopping
July 27, 2010
One particular rider at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in Granby from July 15-18 wasn’t racing for the title of champion.
For Dr. Mark Paulsen of Timberline Clinic in Granby, who also serves as medical director at SolVista Ski Basin, riding his bike on the mountain to reach injured contestants was a race of its own kind.
Paulsen and eight paid EMT bike patrollers at SolVista, plus about a dozen volunteers, provided medical support in as many as 102 accidents that took place during the four-day event.
On an average (non-event) weekend at SolVista, patrollers may respond to about 10 injuries on the mountain, Paulsen said.
For a racing venue that hosted 1,800 mountain bikers, that number of medical incidences is on par with other mountain-bike circuit events, said SolVista Bike Park Director Matt Thompson, who has been racing on the national and world stage since 1997.
“Riders are going for the glory to be named national champion, it’s not part of a point series,” Thompson said. “So riders sometimes decide to take risks.”
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Functioning like a ski patrol, emergency personnel ride mountain bikes or ATVs to respond to falls and crashes – from scrapes and bruises to critical injuries.
“A couple of national professional riders came up to me and told me that SolVista has the best medical support of any venue they’d been to,” Paulsen said, “which I thought was a real compliment because these guys go to venues all over the country for races.”
Many injuries amounted to Paulsen stitching up wounds in the mountainside first-aid room or attending to minor dislocations.
Five incidents were considered critical, such as a 42-year-old spectator who had had a stroke on Saturday night. Flight For Life was dispatched directly to the mountain to transport the patient to Denver, and Paulsen reports that individual is in the intensive care unit and has “made good progress.”
One seriously injured biker had extensive surgery at St. Anthony’s Central in Denver, and others were taken to the intensive care unit for injuries.
Paulsen, a mountain-bike racer himself, would strategically situate himself high up on the mountain with a radio and ride downhill to the injured parties, finding that to be the fastest way to travel on the mountain.
Alongside other mountain patrollers, Kremmling Memorial Hospital District’s Paulsen and physicians assistant Dianne Wettersten are present at many SolVista racing events as well as non-event weekends at the resort.
“Downhill mountain bike races are like the rodeo,” the doctor said in reference to the injury ratio during the USA Cycling National Championships. “It’s why (SolVista) has put the money and effort into developing the patrol.”