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Road Rash: A Motorcyclist’s NightmareMost lifelong motorcycle riders are well aware that taking a spill on their bike is not a question of if they will do it, but when they will do it. Unlike an automobile built with seatbelts, bumpers, airbags and other effective safety features, motorcycles leave bikers out in the elements with virtually no protection. Because of that, most motorcyclists will wear high tech garments and heavy leathers to guard their bones, muscles and skin when they take a spill.

For many bikers, their road rash injuries are nothing more than a minor irritant. However, some cases of road rash can be quite severe or life-threatening.

Defining Road Rash

Road rash usually occurs when the biker comes in direct contact with the road and slides across the asphalt, dirt or concrete surface. In most cases, it is a very painful deep skin abrasion much like a second-degree burn that scrapes away many layers of skin and leaves deep lacerations filled with debris, asphalt, dirt and microbes. In many incidences, road rash is a debilitating injury that restricts movement of the arms, legs, head or torso for many months or years.

Many victims of road rash suffer with lifelong scars or open wounds that tend to require extensive medical treatments to heal a deep skin abrasion adequately. In addition to road rash, an injured motorcyclist will often suffer other injuries after taking a spill including broken bones, spinal injury or head trauma.

Preventing Road Rash

There are specific steps that every biker and passenger can take to avoid a road rash injury if involved in a spill or accident, or reduce the seriousness of their injuries. Primary preventative measures involve wearing proper safety gear that includes:

  • A SNELL or DOT approved motorcycle helmet
  • Leathers
  • Leather gloves
  • Leather boots
  • Long sleeve jacket or shirt

Wearing regular jeans is not advisable because the fabric easily comes apart during a bad spill.

Assessing the Injury’s Severity

The intensity of road rash injuries varies greatly between accidents. However, if you have sustained any of the injuries below, it is essential to seek emergency medical attention. These injuries include:

  • Spurting blood or substantial bleeding
  • Cuts and lacerations that require stitching
  • Compromised damaged skin that hangs from an open wound and requires trimming
  • Damaged skin that exposes underlying structures including muscles, tendons, ligaments and bone

If you are fortunate enough to not have any of the above conditions and have not suffered any other injury, your road rash wound will likely healwith simple first aid treatment. However, it is advisable to have your doctor inspect the wound and verify it severity to ensure you receive appropriate medical care. This is because it is often difficult to identify or assess the severity of a road rash injury or other injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident.

Treating Road Rash Wounds

If your road rash injury is not serious and no emergency medical attention is required, it is essential to follow specific steps that can prevent the development of infection while ensuring the wound heals properly. These steps include:

  • Gently wash the area with mild soap and water. While cleansing the wound can hurt significantly, it is crucial to remove all debris and dirt to minimize the potential of developing an infection.
  • Apply an effective antibiotic cream or ointment to the area to minimize the potential of infection.
  • Cover the wound with a sterile, non-stick, loose dressing.
  • Gently wash the wound at least one time every day.
  • Stop applying dressing to the wound once oozing has stopped, which usually occurs 1 to 2 weeks after the accident.

Even a mild case of road rash requires a fairly long painful recovery. Victims often face challenges with the most mundane tasks like getting dressed, walking or using their hands without being in agonizing pain.

The most effective solution for minimizing the potential of road rash is to operate your motorcycle as safely as possible. In addition, heavy leather clothing and effective protective gear can safeguard your body in the event that you take a spill at highway speeds.

It is impossible to control how others share the roadway with you, so managing your safety is usually up to you.