Mountain Biking Safety: First Aid for the Trail

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The first time I witnessed a serious crash was the first time I realized that I wasnt prepared to handle it.

Like many cyclists, I regularly throw myself into dangerous situations often in remote areas. Yet many of us dont have the proper first aid training to handle a medical emergency.

My wakeup call was on a ride early last season. A friend I was riding with turned a corner at about 20 mph to find that the trail had been washed out, leaving a deep gully where there used to be a slight dip. He planted his wheel, shot off the bike and took the full impact on his forehead. He fell limp on the trail. Out cold.

I scanned my knowledge of bad TV medical drama to figure out what to do next. When he came to, the best I could come up with was, How many fingers am I holding up? OK. Wiggle your fingers. OK. Wiggle your feet.

Nothing seemed to be broken so I slowly got him up and walked him back to the car. When we reached the parking lot a half-hour later, he seemed to be coming back to reality.

Do you know where you are? I asked.

Yeah, he said. Im just surprised to see you here.

Hed forgotten that wed been riding for more than an hour.

Fortunately, my friend only had a mild concussion. Still, I realized then that I would not have been prepared to handle a more serious situation. Trail riding, by its nature, lures us away from civilization and far from professional assistance.

Many emergencies must be addressed immediately to help stabilize the victim before medical staff can be reached.

Below is a list of some common biking injuries and how to handle them. Beyond those listed, there are many more serious injuries that can happen on the trail. Please take a first aid training course to learn how to treat a broader range of injuries.

Clean the wound carefully. Gently spray clean water from a water bottle over the wound to clear away debris. Dont touch the wound or use soiled materials to cover the wound. If possible, apply a sterile dressing to the wound. A clean, dry piece of clothing can be used as dressing.

Severe cuts may require pressure to stop the bleeding. Putting pressure directly on the wound with a cloth or the hand may be enough to stop steady bleeding.

The sides of the wound may need to be pushed together as well to slow the bleeding. In the case of arterial bleeding where blood spurts from the wound pressure must be applied to the artery itself on a point near the wound. If possible, raise the wound above the heart to slow the bleeding.

Its important to know that a rider can get a concussion even if he or she does not lose consciousness. Its always best to be cautious with a head injury. Dont let the rider get back on the bike just walk your bikes until you can get help.

Continue to monitor the riders condition. Causes of concern include vomiting; a headache that progressively worsens; becoming less alert or less conscious; and bruising behind the ear or around the eyes.

Broken collarbone
This is a common injury, and its one that many riders have seen before. Create a sling youll probably have to use a shirt to secure the arm that is on the same side as the break. Keep the arm at a 90-degree angle. If you have safety pins, the bottom of the riders own shirt can be pulled up around the arm and pinned around the chest of the shirt.

Broken arm, wrist or leg
Secure a splint that covers from above the broken area to below it. Use lightweight but strong materials for the splint. Sticks, a flat piece of wood or even a bike-mounted pump can be used. Clothing or an inner tube can be wrapped around the splint to secure it. Create a sling to secure a broken forearm or wrist. For an upper-arm break, create a sling that wraps around the neck and wrist only.

Broken finger
Create a splint for the broken finger by taping it to another finger. Keep something soft, such as a piece of clothing, between the fingers to make it more comfortable.

Online training diary: Use Training Bible to record your mileage and vital stats, and gear up for your next race.

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