I like to quip that falling off your bike doesn’t really hurt; it’s that sudden stop at the end that tends to suck.
And, ‘tis the season for people to start falling off their bikes. I heard that all of the local group rides this weekend had at least one crash. It’s beyond the scope of this column to get into reasons for, and lessons from, crashes. But we can talk about the after-math, and how to get you back ASAP.
Unfortunately I’ve got a bit of experience with this, but that’s what 16 years of bike racing will do for you. Here is my advise on dealing with road rash.
- Wash, Rinse, Repeat. The first step in treating road rash is getting it clean, right, the first time. I like Johnson & Johnson’s Band-Aid Wash. It comes in a handy blue squirt bottle, and it’s both an antiseptic and anaesthetic. It works because of the first, but you’ll love it because of the second. (Do NOT scrub with the iodine brillo pad the ER uses. This just does more damage. Be gentle (duh!))
- Medicate. Triple anti-biotic ointment will work, but do yourself a favor and get a ‘scrip for Silvadene Cream. Trust me.
- Keep It Covered (But Be Picky). You want to keep your road rash covered, to keep it moist. If it dries out it can be very painful, and take much longer to heal. Use Tegaderm, and follow the instructions. Leave it on until it the edges start to come off, then replace. You can even workout and shower with it. It’s expensive, but worth it. Again, trust me. I’m faster than you, but more importantly, I’ve fallen off more than you.
- Keep It In the Dark/Keep It Padded. Sunshine is your enemy, since there’s no epidermis to protect you from the sun, and your exposed wound will sunburn in 2 seconds flat. I like to use a non-stick bandage over the top of the Tegaderm. This serves to keep the sun off, but also provides some padding. If you’ve never bumped a road-rashed shoulder against a door frame, you can’t appreciate the importance of padding.
- Wrap It. You’ll want something to hold everything in place. Gauze wrap or a compression bandage will work, but do yourself a favor and get tubular stretch netting from your pharmacy. There’s a reason the pros use this stuff.
For daily care, remove everything but the Tegaderm for your shower. Inspect the bandage to make sure the edges aren’t unsticking, or that it’s not too full of fluid. Yes, there will be a bit of brownish fluid that accumulates under the bandage. That’s fine – you want this to happen. You just don’t want it to get too full and leak out. Especially during US History, when you’re sitting right across from a cheer-leader you want to date. Again, trust me on this.
If the bandage needs changing, gently remove it during your shower and let the warm water gently rinse the wound. Re-wash with more Band Aid Wash, pat dry, and re-apply as directed above: silvadene cream; tegaderm; non-stick bandage; tubular netting.
All of the above you can do at home, courtesy of CVS, for about $20. But, if you really want to be pro about it, you’ll have your road rash treated with Cold Laser Therapy. I’ve been doing this for about 5 years now, and it literally cuts the healing time in half.
We’ll save the Cold Laser for next time. Until then, rubber side down!
Racing at an elite level while coaching (athletesontrack.com), and being married to a triathlete in grad school with a 60hr/week job. His coaching philosophy is focused on balance and perspective and getting the most out of limited training time by making every workout count. His coaching blends his passion for sport, his extensive experience, the best coaching practices and the most current information and technology to help athletes achieve their goals.