Riding a motorcycle saves money on gas and insurance, but most people choose to ride motorcycles because it’s fun. It’s easier to commute, because you can go places a car might not be able to. You can also park your motorcycle in smaller spaces. Motorcycle riders even cause less damage to the road, since their bikes don’t normally weigh as much as even small cars. And to top it off, you look pretty cool riding around on a motorcycle.
Unfortunately, motorcycle accidents happen more frequently than they should, and they can be traumatic and devastating.
One of the most common reasons motorcyclists get into crashes is because car drivers simply don’t see them. The single most dangerous situation for motorcycle riders is when drivers are making a left-hand turn and they are going straight. There is often no way to avoid a collision.
Other causes include speeding, illegal passing and lane splitting by the motorcyclist. Motorcycles don’t have the kind of safety protections available in cars, which means that even a minor collision is likely to result in serious injury.
Here are some of the more common types of injuries that are a results of a motorcycle accident.
1. Road Rash
Most people don’t realize how serious road rash can be. The skin is the largest organ of the body, and damage to it can affect a person’s overall health. Someone in a motorcycle accident might find himself sliding along the pavement, and as skin is scraped off, debris from the road can enter the body through the fresh wounds.
There are three basic types of road rash:
- Avulsion, where not just skin but also fat and muscle may be scraped away to reveal bone;
- Open wound road rash, which can require stitches or sometimes even skin grafts; and
- Compression road rash, where the body of the rider is caught between two objects resulting in bruising and even broken bones.
The severity of the injuries will depend on factors such as the speed at impact and how well protected the rider is. There are also different levels of injury, from minor scrapes to injuries leading to serious infections or requiring skin grafts or reconstructive surgery. Even a relatively minor case of road rash could need the removal of glass, dirt, rocks and other debris through a painful process, because any foreign matter left behind could result in a serious infection.
Specialized motorcycle wear includes jackets, boots and helmets; leather biker gear can provide more protection than regular clothing from road rash. The more protective gear you wear, the better your chances are to reduce the severity of your injuries as a results of an accident.
2. Head Injuries
Motorcyclists are more vulnerable to head injuries than car riders because they move as fast but don’t have the protection of the surrounding vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that motorcycle riders are 29 times more likely to be in a fatal accident, and the single biggest danger is head injury. Even when the head injury doesn’t result in death, the victim could suffer and need extensive rehabilitation for the rest of his or her life.
A helmet is the best protection against a head injury, but many people choose not to wear a helmet unless it is required by law. Still others have a helmet which is so ill fitting that it does not provide the necessary protection in an accident. There are three degrees of traumatic brain injury after the violent impact caused by an incident such as a motorcycle accident.
The first level of traumatic brain injury is concussion. A victim suffering from a concussion might have a short memory loss and/or temporarily lose consciousness, and might have other symptoms like nausea, drowsiness or headache.
A moderate traumatic brain injury usually has a loss of consciousness from between 20 minutes to 6 hours and could result in symptoms like confusion or disorientation.
With a severe traumatic brain injury, the victim could experience seizures, loss of coordination or dilation of one or both pupils. In extreme cases, the victim could slip into a coma, and in some cases will not come out of it.
This is definitely an area where it is better to prevent the injury if at all possible than treat it. Doctors can try to pinpoint the affected areas using a computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Intracranial pressure monitors can help keep track of swelling and increased pressure.
Treatment can be as simple as rest for mild injuries, and drugs can deal with some side effects, like anti-seizure drugs and diuretics. Severe injuries may need surgery and rehabilitation, and treatment can last a lifetime. Head injuries not only have obvious physical effects, but sometimes result in other consequences like a seeming complete change of personality.
3. Neck and Spinal Cord Injuries
The vulnerability from riding on a motorcycle can also lead to neck and spinal cord injuries. While a helmet can shield the head from an impact, a large force can still cause serious injuries to the neck, some of which are fatal.
Some bikers buy airbag vests so they can receive at least some of the protection car riders get from these kinds of injuries. Minor neck injuries include strains and sprains, but because of the location, the damage can spread down the rest of the spinal cord.
Symptoms of spinal cord injury can include, but are not limited to:
- Severe pressure in the neck or back
- Numbness in extremities
- Sudden loss of bladder \ bowel control
It is important to seek medical care immediately if experiencing any of these symptoms; victims may end up suffering partial or even full paralysis. Motorcyclists may even experience whiplash, which most people associate with auto accidents because it is normally caused by the head moving backward and then forward.
Spinal cord injury is different from back injury, in that the spinal cord can keep the rest of the body from communicating with the brain, but any of these injuries should be treated immediately before they get worse. The prognosis for spinal cord injuries used to be much darker, but it is still vitally important to treat victims with care and follow up with treatment.
4. Upper Trunk
Chest, shoulder and back injuries are the fourth most common kind of motorcycle injury. These kinds of injuries can be especially traumatic because this is where important organs are. There are specially designed motorcycle jackets which have a tough exterior and shoulder armor, which can help protect the back and chest. The motorcycle doesn’t provide much protection to the rider, and the body takes the full force when it suddenly decelerates during a crash.
Older riders particularly suffer from more internal organ injuries, possibly because their bone density decreases with age. Some of the kinds of internal injuries include tears in the aorta, bleeding around the lungs, and tears or cuts to other organs caused by blunt force trauma or penetration.
Even if the damage isn’t visible from the outside, the victim could be suffering from serious or even fatal wounds. Anyone who is experiencing signs of internal trauma after an accident should seek medical care immediately. Signs include but are not limited to swelling of the abdomen, discolored skin (which can be caused by internal bleeding), and lightheadedness.
5. Leg and Foot Injuries
Not surprisingly, about one out of three non-fatal motorcycle injuries affect the lower extremities. Even with protective equipment, legs and feet are vulnerable because they are closest to the ground and will be first to hit the ground in an accident.
Unfortunately, many riders fail to protect those areas of their bodies, even when they do buy protective gear for their rides. Boots, special pants and even special armor can keep these areas from becoming more damaged than they would otherwise.
Many people downplay the importance of protecting their lower extremities because injuries to the legs and feet are less likely to be fatal. Riders may also simply feel more comfortable wearing less cumbersome clothing on their lower bodies. But special clothing is readily and widely available and works well to minimize leg and foot injuries.
6. Arm and Hand Injuries
Most people don’t consider the possibility of hurting their arms and hands while riding a motorcycle, but these kinds of injuries can still be devastating. From bruising to amputation, arm injuries can be mild or life changing.
The most common kind of hand and arm injury experienced because of a motorcycle accident is a break to the radius and/or ulna, as riders will try to catch themselves as they are falling to the ground.
Palm sliders can be worn to keep riders from experiencing this kind of impact. Instead of sending the force straight up the arms, the force is spread out and less likely to break bones.
Biker’s arm is the name of the syndrome which happens when motorcyclists try to stop themselves from falling with their hands. As they take the full force of the fall on their arms, paralysis and nerve damage may occur. Biker’s arm can also be caused when the motorcycle falls on the rider during an accident. As the nerves in the arms are affected, the motorcyclist may experience short term or even permanent numbness or paralysis. Minor cases of biker’s arm may show symptoms later, but will still need to be treated as soon as possible.
Be Careful When Riding A Motorcycle
Serious motorcycle injuries are common when a collision occurs, so safety and taking the necessary precautions are extremely important. Wear as much protective gear as you can handle and make sure to follow all the rules of the road. Getting back on your motorcycle after a crash can be scary, and many people actually decide riding a motorbike is not for them. Whatever you decide, just remember, safety first.