Even the most safety-conscious bicycle riders cannot control the actions of the drivers around them. With little protection from the force of impact, a cyclist is likely to sustain devastating injuries in the event of a crash.
Below is a brief overview of the most common injuries suffered in bicycle accidents:
1. Road Rash
Falling off your bike at a high speed can cause serious burns and skin abrasions. Also known as “road rash,” this injury can be excruciatingly painful due to the number of nerves exposed. In severe cases, road rash can result in permanent scarring and can pose the risk of infection.
2. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
It goes without saying that hitting your head on cement or asphalt can result in a debilitating brain injury. Although a helmet can reduce your risk of suffering a TBI, fewer than half of all cyclists wear helmets while riding.
The effects of a brain injury can vary greatly from one person to the next, but if you notice any of the following symptoms, you should visit a doctor immediately:
- Blurred vision;
- Slurred speech;
- Nausea or dizziness;
- Persistent headaches;
- Sleep problems;
- Inability to concentrate; or
- Memory loss.
TBIs are usually diagnosed using a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The most common and least-severe type of TBI is a concussion. More serious brain injuries include contusions, coup-countercoup, and diffuse axonal injuries. Although a concussion will typically heal without medical intervention, other types of TBIs are likely to result in long-term, permanent, and perhaps fatal complications, so it is always a good idea to undergo a medical evaluation after sustaining a blow to the head.
The best treatment for a TBI depends on the specific type of injury and its severity. The symptoms of a mild TBI can usually be addressed through rest and over-the-counter pain relievers. Although mild TBIs tend to heal on their own, it is still important that the patient is closely monitored. It is not uncommon for patients to be sidelined from school or work for several weeks during recovery. Treatment may also involve limiting recreational activities and strenuous cognitive activities.
In cases involving moderate to severe TBIs, emergency medical care may be necessary to maintain blood pressure and oxygen supply to the brain. Anti-seizure drugs may be prescribed if the patient has TBI-related seizures. If blood vessels are unable to supply brain cells with sufficient oxygen, doctors may use coma-inducing drugs because a comatose brain requires less oxygen.
3. Dental Fractures
Hitting your mouth on the handlebars or concrete can cause chipped or fractured teeth. When this happens, it’s important that you act quickly if you want to restore your smile.
Use a wet cloth to stop any bleeding by applying gentle yet firm pressure. If you are able to find the tooth that was knocked out, rinse it lightly with water but do not wipe it. Also, do not touch the tooth root.
If possible, try to slip the tooth back into its socket, making sure it’s straight and facing the correct way. Otherwise, keep the tooth between your cheek and gum, or place it in a cup with milk, water, or saliva. Get to the dentist as soon as possible.
4. Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs)
A hard impact with the pavement or a motor vehicle can result in spinal cord damage. If you exhibit any signs of an SCI after a bicycle accident, it’s important that you remain still and wait for emergency medical assistance to arrive. Trying to move could aggravate the injury and hinder your recovery.
Common symptoms of a spinal cord injury include:
- Numbness or tingling in the legs, arms, feet, or hands;
- Changes in sensation such as how you perceive heat or cold;
- Muscle spasms;
- Inability to walk or balance;
- Changes in sexual sensitivity or sexual function;
- Pain in the spinal cord; and
- Difficulty breathing.
Treatments for spinal cord injuries aim to improve motor function, restore sensation, and increase independence and quality of life. Because each spinal cord injury is unique, the treatment plan must be customized for each individual patient. Common treatments for SCI include:
- Immobilization to realign the spine;
- Surgery to repair or remove herniated discs, bone fragments, and fractured vertebrae;
- Experimental treatments; and
- Use of new technologies such as modern wheelchairs, electrical stimulation devices, and computer adaptations.
5. Ruptured Discs
Situated between the vertebrae, spinal discs absorb shock to prevent spinal cord damage. When one of these discs protrudes outward or tears open, it can pinch nearby nerves and cause severe lower back pain or shooting pain down the legs. Ruptured discs usually heal without medical intervention, but you may need surgery if your symptoms persist for more than a few weeks.
Lower back pain is the most common symptom of a ruptured disc. Other signs include weakness in the leg, a tingling sensation in the foot or leg, and sharp pain down the back of one leg.
As previously stated, ruptured discs often do not require medical intervention. Here are a few ways to manage the symptoms:
- Apply Heat Pads or Cold Packs: When the pain first sets in, a cold pack can help numb the nerves and reduce discomfort. A hot bath or heating pad can improve range of motion and prevent muscle spasms in the lower back.
- Take Pain Relievers: Pain medication can help reduce discomfort and inflammation. Common over-the-counter pain relievers to help with back pain include aspirin, acetaminophen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Get Moving: Although you should avoid any activities that cause severe pain, it’s important that you stay active. As the discomfort begins to subside, start doing gentle exercises and stretching.
- Consider Alternative Therapies: Your doctor may recommend acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care to help reduce pain while you heal.
If you have not made a full recovery after three months, your doctor may suggest surgery. You may be able to delay surgery by getting anti-inflammatory injections at the injury site, but this is not a long-term solution.
Diskectomy is the most common surgery for patients with a ruptured disc. This involves removing parts of the disc so it no longer presses on spinal nerves.
6. Bone Fractures
Getting hit by a motor vehicle or falling off a bike while traveling at a high speed can result in bone fractures. Your clavicle, legs, hips, hands, arms, feet, and shoulders are all susceptible to breaking in a bicycle accident. Depending on the location and severity of the fracture, more than one surgery may be needed to achieve maximum medical improvement.
Discuss Your Case with a Bicycle Accident Lawyer in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you or someone you love was injured in a bicycle crash due to another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. At the Law Office of Michael D. Waks, we passionately represent victims of personal injury and wrongful death throughout southern California.
Attorney Michael D. Waks has won numerous six- and seven-figure settlements and verdicts on behalf of his clients. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us today at (562) 206-1939 or use our Contact Form to reach us online.
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