Motorcycle and bicycle accidents can involve abrupt collisions and potentially severe injuries to the rider. Even though motorcycles are faster and more powerful, a bicycle accident can be equally as devastating. A cyclist may crash or be struck by a motor vehicle while riding under 5 mph and can still sustain catastrophic, life-threatening injury. Wearing a motorcycle helmet reduces the rider’s probability of suffering a traumatic brain injury by at least 40% if he/she is involved in a crash. Additionally, nearly 75% of all head injuries caused by bicycle accidents can be prevented by the use of helmets.
Common Motorcycle and Bicycle Accident Injuries
For those riders and cyclists fortunate enough to survive a collision with an automobile, injuries may still be very painful or even permanent. Traffic accident survivors may still require treatment or hospitalization for flesh injuries, fractures, head injuries, or spinal cord injuries. Traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries typically require in-patient rehabilitation and can leave riders and cyclists with permanent disabilities.
- Bone Fractures: Colliding with a car or truck at any speed, or simply losing control and being ejected can fracture bones – particularly in vulnerable joints like the wrists and elbows. Unprotected knee caps can be broken or shattered, and riders who crash often suffer from bruised or fractured ribs. Compound-fractures which break the skin can damage muscles and ligaments and may impair a rider’s range of movement once they heal.
- Soft Tissue Injuries: Road rash is a colloquial term used to describe a severe tissue or muscle injury caused by abrasion with the road. If a rider is ejected and slides across a pavement, the coarse surface is likely to tear away any exposed flesh. Most traditional clothing is quickly torn or pulled away by the road. Riders can don jackets equipped with protective polymer or Kevlar armor designed to withstand road friction and protect a rider’s flesh in case of a crash.
- Spinal Cord Injury: In severe cases, the spinal cord may be pinched, crushed, or severed. The injury may result in total paralysis below the injury site. Paralysis of the lower body and lower extremities is called paraplegia, while paralysis in all limbs, with an injury site above the chest or shoulders is called quadriplegia. The effects of a complete spinal cord injury are permanent.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Concussions: The majority of traumatic brain injuries are concussions. Helmets protect against damage to the skull, but a concussion may still be caused by an accident. A concussion occurs when the brain collides with the inner surface of the skull. Most concussions produce temporary effects which eventually subside with proper rest. Effects often include persistent headaches, problems with concentration, memory impairment, and balance/coordination issues.
- Contusions: Contusions are bruises on the brain that form like bruises in the skin or muscles. Depending upon the region of the brain affected, bruising can produce effects similar to a concussion.
- Hematomas: These are blood clots that occur between the skull and brain or inside the brain itself. Clots in the brain may block the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain, resulting in a stroke.
Department of Veterans Affairs – TBI Symptoms & Screening