June 29 2007.

As many as half of the UK's estimated 1.2 million motorcycle riders could be risking leg problems because of blood flow restrictions caused by the riding position, the IAM's annual biker conference heard this month (16 June 2007).

Around 200 IAM delegates from advanced driving groups across the UK gathered at Alton Towers in Staffordshire to hear that motorcycle riders on all makes could be prone to venous disease (disease of the veins). This may be due to a riding position that puts pressure on the major blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the legs.

Ellie Lindsay, Chair of The Lindsay Leg Club Foundation charity, said varicose veins and leg ulcers can be caused by restricted blood flow to the legs.

"Bikers risk having blood from their legs redirected to the superficial veins, the ones near the surface of the skin, causing extra pressure that can lead to problems in later life," said Ms Lindsay.

Family history of venous disease can add to this. The classic riding position of the motorcyclist means that the calf muscle may go unflexed for long periods. The pumping action of the calf muscle during activity is key to blood flowing back to the heart unimpaired.

Ellie Lindsay informed the audience that early intervention can prevent serious damage. Being aware of the importance of regular stops, relieving pressure and taking good care of your skin are simple but effective techniques for preventing venous damage in later life. Motorcyclists must be aware of the signs that venous blood flow is being impaired by the riding position and riding gear. These include: red patches of skin between the knee and ankle, or redness and skin depression as a result of constriction from clothing. Compression socks and hosiery are able to assist the body's own natural mechanism for returning blood to the heart.

IAM Chief Examiner Peter Rodger responded to the presentation by advising that the solution is to consider taking a break from riding every two hours or so, in order to flex the calves and ankles.

"It's good to take a break for all sorts of reason. As a regular rider, I know that concentration has started to drop by two hours as well. Even if we feel mentally alert when we are riding, that doesn't mean the whole body is functioning at its best. So a short walk around to 'stretch the legs' is refreshing and essential for circulation purposes.

"Compression socks/hosiery to aid the blood returning to the heart is a key part of dealing with the problem", said Mr Rodger. "Wearing a leg support underneath the leathers can avoid long-term circulation problems such as DVT (deep vein thrombosis)".

Deep vein thrombosis is a potentially life-threatening clot occurring in a major vein, often the lower limb, as a result of restricted venous blood flow.