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The Threat of Road Rash In Bicycle Crashes

Road rash is one of the most common injuries cyclists encounter during a bicycle crash. While it’s not often considered a severe injury, it can be painful and potentially lead to a secondary infection if not treated properly.

Cyclists who encounter road rash, also often called a friction burn, may have other injuries as well, including broken bones, fractures, or a traumatic brain injury. It’s important to seek out necessary medical attention after a crash, because while road rash is easily identified and treated, those accompanying injuries may be less obvious in the shock of the crash.

Bay Area Bicycle Law attorneys can assist cyclists who encounter injuries stemming from a crash, including severe road rash, get adequate compensation because bike crashes are our only focus. Call (415) 466-8717 today or click here for a free consultation.

What is road rash?

Many cyclists have encountered road rash, a skin abrasion caused by scraping against a hard surface, such as pavement or concrete, as a result of a bicycle accident. The higher the speed the cyclist is traveling when they hit the pavement, the more likely it is that the road rash will be more severe.

In minor cases of road rash, the top layer of skin is scraped off by the hard surface. This can look unsightly, but still be a manageable injury to heal. However, in more serious cases the abrasion can sometimes affect multiple layers of skin. If bad enough, a skin graft may be required to help with healing.

It’s important to clean the wound, even if only the top layer of skin is affected, because dirt and bacteria from the crash can cause an injection, which may lead to more serious health issues. A skin abrasion that is infected won’t heal properly, potentially leave worse scarring, and in very bad cases cause the body to go into shock due to blood poisoning.

Signs of infection:

  • Redness and swelling around the scrape
  • Drainage from the wound
  • Symptoms similar to the flue (fever, muscle aches, vomiting or nausea)

If you suspect that your road rash abrasion is infected, reach out to a health care professional who can clean the wound and address infection.

How to treat road rash

Skin is very good at healing itself, and with many minor road rash concerns, keeping the injury clean and moist will help it heal on its own.

Immediate care: Even a surface level scrape may contain dirt and gravel, and this is what can potentially lead to more serious problems with road rash. Gently wash your hands and clean the area and remove all debris. This can be painful, but necessary to prevent infection. Clean with water and a gentle antibacterial soap. Next, apply an antibiotic ointment and be careful not to remove any additional skin in the care process.

Dressing the wound can help the skin heal and prevent more bacteria from entering the wound. Just make sure not to bandage the wound too tightly. This, paired with keeping the wound moist, has shown to be the best method in a quick recovery.

Upkeep care: Change the bandage as necessary to prevent bacteria build up and infection. Watch for worsening conditions and consult medical attention if the wound does not improve over a few days.

Keep the wound or scar moist even after removing the bandage to help it heal better. Also try to avoid the sun, as new skin can be sensitive, and UV exposure can worsen the appearance of scarring.

If you do experience significant scarring as the result of a bicycle crash, you may want to reach out to a a bicycle lawyer to discuss your options for compensation.

Remember, it can take weeks or months for road rash to fully heal, but with gentle care, you should see improvements within a few days to a week.

Avoiding road rash

It’s not always preventable, but there are a few ways you can lessen the likelihood of experiencing severe road rash.

Wear gloves: The hands are often the first extremities to hit the pavement, so it’s common that the palms take the brunt of the injury. Wearing gloves can create some barrier between the skin and the pavement and keep dirt and gravel from entering the skin. Gloves can be particularly helpful in all kinds of riding conditions, from urban bike lanes to dirt trails, so grab them on every ride.

Expose less skin: It can be annoying, especially on a warmer day, but sleeves and pants, even if they’re light material, can help lessen the chance of road rash. In a crash or accident, you may find that the clothes rip and tear, but, again, can provide a barrier that keeps gravel out of the skin.

In some cases, road rash may be the least of an injured cyclist’s problems, but it can be painful and irritating. Prevention can go a long way in minimizing effects of scraped skin, and proper treatment can help return skin to a healthy state.