One of the most common injuries that you’ll have when you bike, skate, ride a scooter, or do any sort of outdoor sport, is road rash. Take a topple on a hard surface, and the friction between your skin and the ground makes a few layers of skin cells rub right off. This doesn’t usually cause a lot of bleeding or any serious injury, but it can be very painful, since that surface layer of skin does have a lot of nerve endings just below it. When all those nerve endings are exposed, it can be excruciating.
If you are someone who loves to bike, or do any sort of fast-moving outdoor sports on pavement, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll get some road rash at some point. Here’s what you need to do to treat it right away, and a few preparation tips for making it easier to treat in the future.
Treating Road Rash Right Away
Let’s say you haven’t really ever had road rash before, and this is your first time falling so severely. You haven’t ever really considered what to do about road rash before, so you don’t have a handy kit with you to treat this wound. Here are the steps you need to take:
- First, the wound needs to be cleaned as thoroughly as you can. This is the most important step in this entire care process. The road is covered in bacteria, dirt, grime, and various microbes. You need to get the wound sanitized. However, you’ll want to do this gently, because all those exposed nerve endings will be painful. Start by flushing away the worst of the dirt and debris by pouring a saline solution over the wound, and using a sterile wipe to wipe away the grime. Then use a mild antibacterial soap, like a hand soap, and a washcloth, to gently cleanse the wound. Rinse the wound with lots of water, and then pat it dry.
- A lot of people think that you need to scrub the wound, but doctors report that this is a myth. Using something like peroxide on this type of wound is not necessary. Water and soap are gentle enough but ample to clean the wound. If you have debris embedded in the wound that you can’t wash away gently, you should seek medical attention.
- Now that the wound is clean and dry, it should be dressed. The wound should only be covered for about a week while new skin cells cover the exposed nerves. A hydrocolloid dressing is perfect. However, if you don’t have this on hand, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment, and then cover this by a bit of gauze. Hold the gauze in place with a bandage and medical tape. The wound should be rinsed clean, and the ointment re-applied daily, and then recovered. At the end of a week, you should see fresh skin.
- After a week, the wound should be given time to heal in the air. During the healing phase, keep an eye on the wound. If you see anything like swelling, reddening, developing pus, or a bad smell, or you start feeling even more pain, you should see a doctor. This could be a sign of infection.
- The final stage of caring for a road rash is to make sure you protect the new skin from the sun. Use lots of sunscreen or cover the area with clothing, to protect the new skin until it is completely healed.
Preventing Road Rash
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to really prevent road rash. You can protect the delicate parts of your body, like your hands, by wearing protective gear. But thin nylon biking gear doesn’t really do much against road rash.
Many bikers shave their legs because it’s much easier to clean a road rash wound if there isn’t hair in the way.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to get a good treatment kit, and keep it on hand when you are riding or playing outdoors. The things that you should have in the kit include saline solution, sterile wipes, antibiotic ointment, anti-bacterial soap, a wash cloth, gauze, medical tape, hydrocolloid dressings, and a bottle of water if you aren’t going to be near a source of clean water.
The Risks of the Road
Road rash is just one of the given risks of riding bikes, skateboarding, or having fun in any sort of outdoor setting. With a little bit of preparation, you can take care of this common injury and get back to your fun in no time.
Brad grabbed up his first bike when he was a kid and never looked back. He is an avid BMX rider and mountain biker.