MONDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The number of mountain bike-related injuries in the United States has fallen 56 percent since the mid-1990s, from more than 23,000 in 1995 to just over 10,000 in 2007, a new study shows.

The decrease is likely because of a combination of factors, said the researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

"While some of the decline may be explained by a decrease in the number of people riding mountain bikes, there have also been a number of improvements to the bicycle design, such as disc brakes and dual-suspension systems, that give the rider greater control of the bike and may help to reduce the incidence of injuries," study author Lara McKenzie said in a hospital news release.

The analysis of data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System also found that the most common types of mountain bike-related injuries are fractures (27 percent), soft tissue injuries (24 percent), and cuts and scrapes (21 percent).

The most frequently injured parts of the body are the upper extremities (27 percent), shoulder and clavicle (20 percent), and the lower extremities (20 percent). The most common causes of injury are falls (70 percent) and being thrown from the bike (14 percent).

Overall, boys and men were most likely to suffer mountain bike-related injuries, but girls and women were more likely to suffer an injury serious enough to require hospitalization. The study also found that riders aged 14 to 19 sustained twice as many traumatic brain injuries as riders of other ages.

"While the number of mountain bike-related injuries has decreased, they continue to be a concern," McKenzie said. "The gender and age differences we found represent opportunities to further reduce injuries through focused injury prevention and increasing use of protective equipment."

The study appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

More information

For more on bike safety, go to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.