Evel Knievel once said, “pain is temporary, bones heal — and chicks dig scars.” If you’re a cyclist you can identify. The majority of road bikers don’t wear protective gear of any kind. But if you’ve done any serious miles, you know that hitting the pavement is unavoidable. It’s part of cycling.
Don’t be Intimidated
Fear of an injury should never keep you off your bike. But if you do go down, it’s good to know the mechanics of getting injured. Fortunately for cyclists, road rash is the most common injury, and typically doesn’t require a call to 911. Lacerations, broken bones and internal injuries require more attention to details.
Lessons to Learn
The big lesson to learn from crashing is that while cyclists use the sport as a way to relieve stress, staying engaged on the bike is paramount to safety. Making stupid mistakes that could have been avoided is typically what causes cyclists to go down. It’s important to remember that you’re flying down the road at high speeds, wearing what some consider little more than underwear.
Cycling crashes often look worse than they really are, and when pedestrians or motorists see someone scraped up and bleeding, they sometimes over-react. If you’re the one who crashed, you may end up needing to help your over-enthusiastic rescuer to calm down. If you’re coming to the aid of someone who crashed, stay calm and do your best to keep them calm.
State of Mind
Hitting the pavement can cause you to become disoriented. Making decisions right after a crash might not be the best idea. It’s not always a good idea to jump to your feet instantly after a crash. Do a short inventory of your condition. Did you hit your head? If you’re unsure, check your helmet for damage. Can you recall what day it is. Do you know your name? Do you know where you are?
If it’s another cyclist on the ground instead of you, these are important questions to ask them. If you’re by yourself and you’ve determined that you did indeed hit your head, you might not be thinking clearly. You may think you’re fine but you’re not. If you have damage to your helmet, the safest thing to do is call for someone to come and get you.
Not So Fast
Cycling produces endorphins, which are natural painkillers, and they make you feel good. Take time to settle down before moving around to any extent. Stay on the ground. Its not wise to jump up, only to crumple back down in a heap of pain. If you have a concussion you’re probably confused. If you don’t recall exactly where you are and what you’re doing, it’s likely you do have a concussion.
Check your body next. Can you feel your limbs. Do you have bones sticking out of your skin. Is there a lot of blood. Don’t risk moving too much if you feel seriously injured. Call for help. If everything seems to check out OK, stand up slowly. Take a few moments to steady yourself, and then try to lift your bike. If you can lift it without excessive pain, it’s relatively safe to assume that your upper body is fine. Try to walk. If you can walk, and your joints can bear your weight, you can probably pedal your bike again.
Fast Versus Slow
It might not feel like it at first, but road rash is a sign that you may not have broken bones. Crashing at speed causes you to slide on the pavement, which can disperse the energy from a crash. Slower speeds often result in broken bones. That’s one reason why mountain bikers often break more bones than roadies. Hitting the ground hard, without tumbling or sliding breaks hips, wrists and arms. Low speed tip-overs break bones. High-speed slides shred clothing and removes skin, but often spares bones.
Road rash is about the only thing you can deal with by yourself, typically without professional medical attention. In most cases it’s not too painful right after the crash, but once you get home, the suffering starts. It’s painful because of the number of nerve ends that have become exposed.
The Leg Shaving Thing
Infection is a real risk with road rash. Cleaning debris out of wounds is an awful lot easier without hairs in the way. It’s one of the main reasons for cyclists shaving their legs.
Big or Small
If you get a patch of road rash, assess the severity of the wound. If it’s larger than your palm, it’s wise to seek medical attention. If you’ve got debris, sand, gravel, pebbles, sticks or anything else embedded in the wound, it typically requires a visit to the ER, with pain medication, the proper equipment and experience to remove the debris and clean the wound.
Clean It — If Possible
It’s unlikely that you have the medical equipment on your bike to take care of road rash. But if you are going to maintain first aid gear, keep a bottle of saline, and some gauze for cleaning the wound. If you’re treating yourself, the ﬁrst step is the most important – clean the wound as thoroughly as possible by squirting the saline solution over the wound and using sterile wipes.
Clean road rash as gently as possible. Scrubbing road rash is not recommended, it embeds particles even deeper into the wound, and besides that, it’s extremely painful to scrub road rash. Most cyclists don’t have the necessary first aid on board to deal with road rash. Call someone if possible. Place gauze over it if you have it, and try to keep the road rash from drying out before you get home, where you can deal with it properly.
Road Id Bracelet
Don’t think yourself immune to a more serious accident. It might be that you become incapacitated, and you need to let someone know who you are, even if you’re down for the count. Think about having a road Identification bracelet made for you. It’s a good way for paramedics to find your critical information. This way the hospital knows your medical history and can call your spouse, parents or children.