What causes MTBO Injuries?

The MTBO Commission together with the MTBO Athletes Commission started to collect data on MTBO competition accidents and injuries in April 2016, including historic data. MTBO is the orienteering discipline that inherently carries a higher level of danger and possibility of serious injuries due to high speed travel over unknown terrain in competition situations. Athletes and organizers accept this risk and consider it as part of our sport. Nevertheless, we have to try to work together and improve safety as much as reasonable by reducing controllable risk and preparing athletes to manage uncontrollable risk.

The objective of the data collection is to improve safety of MTBO competitions through fact-based advice to organizers, athletes and coaches on typical accidents and injuries. The data collection is voluntary. Names of the athletes involved are not shared.

Currently the database contains information on 45 unique accidents from events between 2012 and 2018. These are mainly from IOF elite events, but there are also some reports from national events and non-elite classes. Due to the voluntary nature of reporting the database may help to identify patterns, but it is not suitable to identify changes in event safety over time.

Link to full report: MTBO Injury Database Analysis 2012-18.pdf

Link to MTBO Injury database pages (with links to report an injury)


This is a short analysis of the MTBO competition injuries reported in the MTBO Injury Database. This analysis focuses on the accidents which happened between 2012 and 2018. This set of 45 reported injuries over 7 seasons suggests that some of the preconceptions on high risk MTBO situations are likely to be myths:

Preconception: Urban MTBO competitions are more dangerous.
Data: Only 1 of the 45 reported injuries happened in an urban setting.

Preconception: Injuries are caused by encountering traffic or loss of control.
Data: The most frequent cause is hitting objects, second is map reading.

Preconception: Highest risk is associated with two riders colliding on narrow paths.
Data: The most serious injuries happened with single riders on narrow paths, and with riders colliding on wide roads (typically while map reading).

Preconception: To reduce MTBO competition injuries organizers must do more.
Data: Most injuries are the responsibility of athletes. Most accident situations are not competition specific, but inherent to riding a bike on terrain, reading a map while riding, and lack of situational awareness on wide roads.

This data shall help athletes to become more aware of high risk situations, like map reading on wide roads at high speeds. It should also help organizers, course setters and event advisers to fine tune their approach to managing risk at MTBO events.