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Trauma injuries: Road rash, fractures, and concussion

Q: What is road rash and how do I deal with it?

A: A road rash is a scrape or abrasion that may result when you fall off your bike. Read more about scrapes on the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise® Health Encyclopedia website.

Treat it like you would any wound:

  • With clean hands, wash the area with mild soap and water.
  • Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment and a bandage to keep the area dry and clean.
  • If a scrape is severe, seek professional help to clean the area. But if possible, remove whatever dirt you can to avoid infection before you get to a doctor's office or hospital.
  • If you have not had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years, call your primary care physician (PCP).

What do cyclists do to prevent or ease the symptoms of road rash?

  • Serious cyclists may shave their arms and legs. The less hair there is, the easier it is to clean out any wound of that kind and apply dressings.
  • Everyone should wear a helmet. Elbow, knee, and shin pads can prevent more serious injury as well.

Q: What kind of fractures are cyclists likely to get?

A: Although the results of a fall are unpredictable, there are some more common cycling fractures, including those of the arm, shoulder, clavicle (collar bone), and femur. Seek medical attention if you suspect you have broken a bone.

Symptoms of a broken bone may include:

  • Moderate to severe pain
  • Redness and swelling of the area
  • An inability to move the affected area

If you are recovering from a fracture, be sure to rest and ease up on you regular activities. When you return to cycling, slowly return to your routines. Your doctor or physical therapist can advise you on the best way to plan a recovery program.

Read about broken bones, symptoms, and treatments on the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise Health Encyclopedia website.

Q: What is a concussion and how can I prevent one?

A: A concussion is a brain injury caused when the head hits an object or an object strikes the head. Sports activities, falls, and car accidents are the most common causes of concussion. Headaches and loss of consciousness are some of the symptoms.

Seek immediate medical attention and call 911 if you or someone you know shows signs such as:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Unequal size of pupils
  • Mental confusion or going in and out of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Inability to wake up (coma)

Read more about concussions on the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise Health Encyclopedia website.

Read about baseline and post-concussion testing through the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Sports Concussion Program.

Dr. Sparks suggests all cyclists follow simple common-sense advice:

  • Wear a helmet. The single best way to prevent a severe head injury while biking is wearing a well-fitting helmet.
  • Watch for cars and other obstacles – like large potholes, trees, or other people and cyclists – in the immediate environment.
  • Follow the rules of traffic.
  • Make sure you are riding a bike that fits you. Visit the shop where you purchased your bike if you are not sure if your seat is at the right height or if you cannot stop or reach the pedals properly. Here at DHMC, call Physical Therapy Services at (603) 650- 5978 to make an appointment.
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