Warfarin and cycling

Warfarin and cycling

I have had to start warfarin medication. This thins the blood, so wounds will bleed more and a head injury can be dangerous. Health officials have suggested that biking is rather risky. My life is built around cycling for utility, sociability and holidays.

I wonder what views Cycling UK may have regarding any extra risk posed by warfarin for cyclists, in particular any extra validity in wearing a helmet (I always do anyway)?

Ruth Feinberg

Warfarin is an anticoagulant used to prevent and treat blood clots in a range of conditions where clots have formed or are likely to form, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE) and atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat), and in those with mechanical heart valves.

Although I don’t have any figures, the overall risk of cycling while on warfarin is likely to be significantly less than that associated with not treating the underlying medical condition for which it has been prescribed. That said, there is obviously a higher risk of bleeding if you fall off. In most instances, this will mean that you bruise more easily and have to apply extra pressure to any cuts. If you are unlucky enough to suffer major trauma, then there is a greater chance of more serious bleeding.

People who take warfarin require regular INR blood tests to ensure the dosage is correct. The INR indicates how thin your blood is in comparison to ‘normal’ (i.e. somebody not taking warfarin). The desired INR depends on the condition being treated (2-3 is a typical range but a few conditions require it to be higher). It is important to attend all your INR tests as the risk of bleeding is much greater if the INR gets too far above the desired range.

My advice is to keep cycling but take a few precautions. Ride sensibly (downhill mountain bike racing is probably not ideal). Wearing a helmet seems like a good idea, but don’t let it make you feel over-confident and take extra risks. Some also advocate wearing additional protective gear like knee padding. This is a personal decision which will depend on your attitude to risk and the type of biking you do.

Dr Matt Brooks

 

This was first published in the February / March 2013 edition of Cycle magazine.

Health     Q&A     Technical advice
Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Join Cycling UK to help us change lives and communities through cycling
Join Cycling UK to help us change lives and communities through cycling
Membership gives you peace of mind insurance, discounts in cycle shops, rides & routes