Why “Road Rash” Should Be Taken Seriously

Road Rash Injuries“Road rash” sounds like a minor injury, doesn’t it? After all, how bad could a rash really be?

Turns out, it can be pretty bad. “Road rash” is the informal name for a friction burn. A kid who falls and scrapes her knee on the sidewalk suffers a kind of road rash; so does the motorcycle operator who’s hit by a car and thrown from the bike, sliding and skidding along the road before he comes to a complete stop. So if you ride a motorcycle or a bicycle in Pittsburgh, you should know why road rash needs to be taken seriously.

1. You can get an infection

First and foremost, one of the top reasons why you should take road rash seriously is because it can cause severe infections. Open wounds – especially ones caused by contact with pavement on roadways – can be filled with dirt and debris. This includes germs and particulates which can quickly enter your bloodstream and result in a serious infection.

This infection, if left untreated, can trigger a life-threatening condition called sepsis. Sepsis is an inflammatory response where your body starts fighting itself instead of the infection. It’s also a medical emergency, because you can easily go into septic shock, which is often fatal.

2. There are specific ways that you should handle, clean, and take care of road rash

When you do not take your road rash seriously, you may either forget or decide not to clean it. This can cause huge issues, as there are specific ways that you should handle, clean, and take care of your road rash. It is usually recommended that you wash the open area gently and frequently, pat it dry with a towel, apply some type of antibiotic that will help it heal, and keep a bandage on it to prevent anything from entering the wound.

3. Your bones, muscles, and tissues may be exposed

If you have severe road rash, there is a good chance that your bones, muscles, and tissues are exposed. Not only is this painful, but it means additional trauma care. Bones may need to be reset. Open wounds will need to be debrided (the medical term for removing debris and tissue from a wound). Most healthcare providers compare severe road rash to burns caused by fires in terms of how severe the damage is. The chances are good you’ll be in the hospital for longer than you expect.

4. You may need immediate surgery, like skin grafts

Another critical factor to consider when you have road rash is that you may need skin grafts. A skin graft is when the surgeons take healthy skin from one part of your body to replace skin loss in another. The Cleveland Clinic defines the different types of grafts this way:

  • Split-thickness skin graft (STSG): During this procedure, your provider removes the top layer of skin (epidermis) and only part of the second layer (dermis). Providers usually use STSG to cover large areas of damaged or missing skin. They typically take healthy skin from the thigh, bottom, belly or back. The area where the skin was removed from (donor skin) normally heals on its own over 1-2 weeks.
  • Full-thickness skin graft (FTSG): During an FTSG, your provider removes and transplants the top layer and the entire second layer of skin. FTSG procedures require more healing time than STSG because the transplanted skin is thicker. Providers may choose FTSG for a part of the body that you don’t usually cover up with clothing, such as the face. For FTSG, providers often remove healthy skin from the groin, arm or collarbone area and then close the donor wound right away.
  • Composite graft: During this procedure, providers transplant skin as well as cartilage or other soft tissues. Composite grafts can repair damage to the nose, fingertips and ears.

This is a major surgery, even if you need a STSG. And while operating rooms are considerably cleaner than the open road, there are still infection risks with a surgery that creates a wound in one place to fix a wound in another.

5. You may experience permanent scarring, disfigurement, and even immobility

Severe road rash can cause disfiguring injuries. You could have permanent discoloration from the grafts, or sustain nerve damage that leave you partially paralyzed. If infection sets it and you develop tissue necrosis, you may need to have a part of your body amputated. Even if you fully heal, you can be left with noticeable scars.

6. You may have severe blood loss

Open wounds bleed. If you lose too much blood quickly, your body will be unable to replace it fast enough, which can lead to a severe drop in blood pressure. Untreated, your body may go into shock and then into organ failure. Severe blood loss is a life-threatening emergency.

How motorcyclists and bicyclists can prevent road rash in Pittsburgh

While anyone can experience a road rash injury, motorcyclists and bicyclists are most at risk. The following are a few of the ways that motorcyclists and bicyclists can prevent road rash from occurring:

  • Before you get on your bike or motorcycle, find out what the weather conditions are for the day. If there are storms on the way, it may be best for you to stay home. However, if you must go out, make sure you drive as carefully as possible to prevent an accident that may cause you to suffer road rash.
  • Always wear the proper clothing and equipment to protect your body from road rash. This includes helmets, pants, boots, gloves, long sleeves, and more. You may even want to consider wearing padded or thick clothing as it is very possible for you to get road rash through your clothing.
  • Never get on a bicycle or motorcycle after having too many drinks or taking any prescriptions or drugs. When you drink, your reaction times become delayed, increasing your chances of being involved in an accident and suffering road rash.
  • If you notice wet or icy roads, loose or bumpy gravel, oily roads, debris or potholes in the road, it is critical that you reduce your speed and ride your motorcycle or bicycle very cautiously. Road conditions are one of the top reasons for road rash injuries. Therefore, it may also be beneficial for you to turn around and find another route (if you can safely do so).

If you have recently been involved in a motorcycle or bicycle accident, the Pittsburgh personal injury attorneys at Carmody and Ging are here to help you. Our team has about six decades of combined experience, and our firm has been around for close to three decades. We can assure you that we have what it takes to legally guide you through this tough time in your life. Please call our office or submit our contact form to schedule your free, no-obligation case evaluation today.