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Road rash

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Knowledge level: Beginner

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Article posted: 11/06/2014

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If you have ever come off your bike carrying any sort of speed then you’ve probably experienced  road rash. In most cases it’s often not too painful immediately after the incident, as adrenaline and endorphins help numb the pain and, apart from the embarrassing holes in your lycra, you’re normally able to limp home. Once back however the suffering can really start. Fortunately Andrew Evans is on hand to let you know the pro secrets for dealing with this type of injury in a safe and effective way.

The first step of treating road rash is nasty, horrible, painful but vitally important. You’ve got to make certain the wound is 100% clean.

What is it?

Road rash is a burn or skin abrasion that results from frictional contact with the ground. It is extremely painful because of the amount of nerve ends exposed, healing can take a long time and scarring is common. Although clothing offers a degree of protection, the amount offered by thin lycra is minimal and, in most instances, the heat generated by the friction will literally melt the material away. One part of your body you can protect with clothing however are your hands and, as riding with grazed palms is extremely unpleasant, always make sure you’re wearing mitts or gloves.

Treatment

The first step of treating road rash is nasty, horrible, painful but vitally important. You’ve got to make certain the wound is 100% clean. There can be clothing fibres, grit off the road and dirt in the wound that you can’t just wipe off and, if it stays there, can easily lead to infections. Cleaning up road rash is far easier with shaved legs so, if you’re putting in reasonable hours on your bike, it’s worth considering.

We use Steripods, which contain a sterile irrigation fluid, to flush the wound clean and use a medical scrubbing brush, which is a two sided with bristles and foam, to thoroughly clean the wound. At home you could use sterile saline pods to rinse the wound and then a sponge once you get in the shower.

You then need to look at the depth of the wound. If it’s just superficial grazing, you can use a dry iodine spray such as Betadine but make sure you haven’t got any iodine allergy issues. If the wound is any deeper than grazes though, the drying effect of such a spray can lead to scarring and the wound will need dressing. If it’s deeper you might want to consider going to your local A&E or Minor Injuries Unit. We use sutures and, for the hands and face, glue to close wounds.

If you’re confident the wound doesn’t require professional medical attention, once clean, you’ll need to dress it. Healing is faster and scarring is less likely if the wound is kept moist and allowed to breathe. Spray on second skins are excellent as well as hydrocolloid dressings such as Alginate. Make sure that the wound isn’t able to stick to bedding or clothing as this is very painful, will prolong healing and increase the risk of both scarring and infection. Cover and hold the hydrocolloid dressing place with an adhesive, waterproof but breathable dressing such as Tegaderm.

If you’ve fallen heavily on your hip, you may also have bruised or damaged the fluid filled sac known as a bursa. Ice is important to reduce inflammation. Cover the ice pack to prevent freezer burn and then use a protocol of 10 minutes on, 60 minutes off, six times during the day.

Hydrocolloid dressings are designed to stay in place until the wound has healed but monitor the area closely for signs of possible infection such as spreading redness around the area. If you’re in any doubt consult with a doctor.

It’s a good idea to keep a kit at home with all the necessary equipment and dressings to treat road rash. Look online for specialist medical websites such as www.pattersonmedical.co.uk where you’ll be able to find a wider range of products and at cheaper prices than at high street chemists.

Include the following in a home kit:

  • Alginate or Hydrocolloid dressings or varying sizes
  • Tegaderm dressing
  • Saline Steripods
  • Dry Iodine spray
  • Second skin spray on wound dressing
  • Re-usable ice packs

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