What To Do After A Bike Accident
So it finally happened. After years of close calls and near misses, you finally hit the deck. Maybe it was a errant patch of gravel, or someone’s back wheel that was the culprit, but the end result is always the same – you leave a significant portion of your skin behind on the road. Recovering from a crash can be a tricky process, and you will only ever do it the wrong way once (it hurts that much!). To spare you some learning pains, here are some tips on dealing with the dreaded road rash.
Cleaning the Wound
The first thing you want to do is wash the wound out as well as you can – unless you managed to fall on hardwood floors (velodrome?), you are going to have a ton of grit and dirt embedded in there. This needs to come out. A lot of people are tempted to use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to ‘disinfect’ the wound. DON’T!!! These substances will damage your exposed tissue, potentially increasing the likelihood of scarring, and delaying recovery. Warm water and a mild soap, and/or a saline solution are all you need. Try to get as much of the dirt out as possible, but don’t scrub too hard and inflame the area. A small squirt bottle can be really handy here.
Now that you have a relatively clean area to work with, it is time to disinfect the wound. Depending on how much things are hurting at this point, I will use a couple different methods. If the pain is really bad, I have a antiseptic spray that contains lidocaine (a numbing agent) that works so well I think it might be some sort of witch magic. After spraying it on and letting it dry off a bit, I will cover the affected area with a triple antibiotic ointment like Neosporin. If you can find the stuff that also has ‘pain relief’ get it – it’s not lidocaine, but it will help. You want to have a thin film of the ointment covering the area – don’t gob the stuff on!
Bandaging the Wound
Hopefully by now, things are hurting a little less, and you can think about dressing the wound. This was where I made my biggest mistake on my first crash – I used regular dressings, and didn’t change them soon enough. By the time I got around to switching my bandages a day later, my skin had started growing back into the bandage, and I ended up spending two hours soaking in the bathtub, slowly ripping my own skin off as I peeled the bandages off. So beware!!!
In general, you should always keep the wounds covered – if your raw skin gets too much sun it will scar for sure and letting them scab over will leave you with a couple of weeks (or more) of very stiff, painful, awkward moving about. By keeping the wounds covered, you allow the new skin to form underneath, and when it has completely closed up, you can take the bandages off and be just about good as new! There are a couple of options for dressings. If you are super fancy, you can use what are called semi-occlusive dressings – these allow the wound to breathe while still sealing fluids inside and other contaminants outside. All of the professional racing teams use these – the best brand is probably BIOCLUSIVE. The downside is that they are pretty pricey – depending on what size you need, up to $5 per patch.
My low-tech alternative to these was a combination of the non-stick gauze pads you can find at any drug store and vaseline. I found that the non-stick pads alone weren’t quite non-sticky enough, but with a thin layer of vaseline on them, they worked perfectly! I used mesh wrap to hold them on. You will have to change these a bit more frequently than the Bioclusive dressings (once a day, versus once every few days) but if you can’t find the fancy stuff, these are a great second option.
Now you should be well on your way to a successful recovery! Change your dressings frequently, and don’t try to do too much too soon, and you will be back riding in no time. After the aforementioned crash and skin peeling incident, I was back racing (still slightly bandaged up, albeit) in two weeks.