Road rash is something that is often associated with motorcycles, but it can come from other sports and activities as well, in varying degrees. You should understand the risks of road rash injury because they can be severe in some cases.

Road rash can cause serious medical complications and scarring, and the following are some of the most important things to know about it if you do any activities where there’s an associated risk.

What Is Road Rash?

Road rash is something that occurs when your skin slides against a surface, and that surface is typically pavement.

There are certain injuries that makeup road rash and most people experience several or all of them.

There is abrasion in which a rough surface rips away layers of skin, and avulsion, which means the surface tears skin off. Then, laceration means the surface slices your skin, and there can be a thermal burn that occurs because of the heat generated between the skin and the road surface.

Road rash is most common in the spring and summer months because people are wearing fewer clothes and spending more time doing outdoor activities.

Some of the activities that can cause road rash, in addition to motorcycle accidents, include cycling, skateboarding and running. Even sports like softball and baseball can lead to road rash.

The severity of road rash varies depending on the speed of your skin when it hits the road, the condition and texture of the surface, and how far you slide. As you can imagine, road rash stemming from motorcycle accidents is often the worst.

If you’re on a motorcycle and you lay your bike down to avoid a collision, or you’re in a collision you may tumble into the road, leading to road rash.

The same can happen when you’re on a regular bike, but you’re going at a slower speed, so it might not be as severe.

Road rash can be classified into one of three groups based on severity, and the classification model is somewhat similar to burns.

First-degree road rash is minor and there may be scrapes, bruising, and a bit of bleeding. Most of these cases can be dealt with at home, on your own.

A second-degree road rash is considered serious, and it can lead to bleeding and swelling, and even exposed nerves, muscles or tendons. This requires immediate medical attention.

Third-degree road rash is severe, and skin may come off, leading to deep wounds. This can be incredibly painful but sometimes not painful at all because there is nerve damage present.

What Should You Do If You Get Road Rash?

If your case is severe, you need to seek emergency help, and more on that later. If your case of road rash isn’t as severe, complications can still occur.

For example, one common complication is infection. Even if you think you have a mild case of road rash, you can develop an infection because this condition means you may get embedded dirt in your wound.

In cases of deeper road rash, it can cause damage to the nerves and soft tissue, and ultimately that can lead to the development of a disability.

Even a minor case of road rash can also cause a scar, and if there is leftover dirt in the wound, it can lead to a scar with discoloration.

Symptoms of an infection can include increased pain following the initial day of the injury, swelling, and redness. Warmth around the affected area, pus or fluid draining and a foul smell can also indicate an infection.

One of the most severe complications of road rash is blood poisoning, which can ultimately lead to septic shock. Septic shock causes blood pressure to drop to a dangerously low level, and it can lead to organ failure.

Treating Mild Road Rash

If you believe you have mild road rash, there are steps you can take at home, although you might still want to see a medical professional for their opinion.

First, always wash your hands first because if you have bacteria on your hands it can increase the likelihood of an infection developing.

Then, wash the injury but don’t scrub it—wash it very gently. Remove any debris that you can see, and if necessary, use a pair of tweezers. Then, apply antibiotic ointment, and again, do so gently.

You’ll need to cover the injury to prevent bacteria from coming in contact with it, and gauze is a good option for doing so.

Make sure you always have a fresh bandage and change it one or two times a day. Keep regularly checking for signs of infection as the wound heals.

What Happens If You Need Medical Attention?

If you have a road rash that’s severe and requires medical attention, the approach a doctor will take varies.

Sometimes road rash is treated in the same way as a burn injury. This means that treatment could require skin grafting.

Skin grafting is a procedure where healthy skin is taken from another part of your body and used to cover the wound. Then, as the graft heals, new blood vessels will grow and this will encourage the formation of new skin cells that heal the wound.

In some cases, you may have a legal case to make if you receive a road rash, and it’s not your fault. For example, maybe you were on a motorcycle but someone else on the road behaved negligently. The same might be true if you were on a bicycle.

The person responsible for the injuries may be facing legal liability.

In other instances, your injuries might be the result of unsafe road conditions, or because of a defect in the bike or whatever you were riding.

If you think you may have a case relating to your road rash, the best thing you can do is contact an experienced attorney. Never sign or agree to anything without doing so.

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