The news of Andy Schleck retiring from professional cycling due to a knee injury is not overly surprising considering his crash in 2012. A few years back, at 29, he was on top of the sport placing 2nd overall at the 2011 Tour de France (TDF). In 2012, at the Criterium du Dauphine he cracked his sacral bone in a Time Trial crash. An injury of this type to the sacrum can set the wheels in motion for poor performances that I think few understand. Mr. Schleck, I believe, was victim to this.
Based on the fact that Mr. Schleck had seen sub-par performances leading up to another crash in the 2014 TDF, I am guessing that along with his cracked sacral bone from the 2012 crash, he also sustained an undetected injury to his coccyx (the tailbone) at the same time. An injury to the sacrum from an impact such as a bike crash will most often involve the coccyx and if so, will lead to varying degrees of performance loss.
Performance loss is the most telling sign for me, short of an evaluation. I read reports of crashes, follow riders’ performances and those who have not been able to get back to winning ways after a crash or series of crashes, instigates the hypothesis that coccyx involvement is to blame. How does an athlete go from the dominance Mr. Schleck exemplified, to not even being close to the upper echelon in the peloton? Motivation loss? No – other than the motivation to train waning because they are not seeing the performance gains they were accustomed to experiencing, there’s something more here. Naturally, other injuries can cause performance loss, but in my experience, none are more under-appreciated than an injury to this area. For most, it goes undetected, uncorrected and they spend the rest of their career trying to figure out what happened to the wattage, transitioning into second tier riders. Why are they growing more sensitive to illness? Why are they not recovering as well? And why do they keep getting these nagging injuries when the training load increases? (The short answer as to why this happens is laid out in a previous blog post of mine, “Why Power Matters to Injuries“). When I treat these in my office, the body and biomechanics start to correct, allowing for recovery and performance gains.
Make no mistake his sacral injury was devastating to his power output and biomechanics but layered on top of that is this, what I suspect, injury to the coccyx further eroding his performance. Obviously, I can’t be certain that this scenario has played out for Mr. Schleck, but I hope he had the possibility checked out before stepping away from the career he fought so hard to obtain.
Steve Noble, DC, CCSP
119 Grand Ave
Bellingham, WA 98225