• Robertson Pearce

Trailside First Aid (Part 2)


Knolly Grassroots rider and physician Robertson Pearce covers the basics of trailside first aid. You can read about part 1, in which he goes over first aid kits, here (link)

Last time we briefly talked about some principles of trailside first aid and went through a few examples of the different types of first aid kits you should pack based on your ride. But what good is all that stuff if you don’t know how to use it? In this post, we’ll go through a few of the most common injuries sustained while mountain biking as well as basic first aid for these injuries. Every treatment that will be covered can be performed with the basic items in your first aid kit, with a little help from some of your bike spares and perhaps an item or two from Mother Nature. As a disclaimer, this article is not meant to make you an expert and is not a substitute for a proper first aid/wilderness first aid class; the goal is simply to provide a starting point, and some knowledge is better than none!

Before learning first aid, it is important to first understand the principles of first aid. First aid is just that, the first attempt at providing medical aid to the injured. It typically is not the final, definitive care for an injury but instead provides stabilization and comfort until the individual can be transported to the hospital. But that’s not to say it isn’t important! For several of the injuries we’ll cover today, good and prompt first aid can mean the difference between someone making a quick recovery or getting much worse. While there are a huge array of potential injuries one might sustain while mountain biking, we’ll cover a few of the most common ones today, divided into head injuries, shoulder injuries, arm/leg injuries, and skin injuries. Finally, we’ll wrap it up with a list of recommended classes and online resources for those interested in learning even more!

The Head

I don’t think many will disagree with me when I say the head is the most important part of our bodies. It has eyes to let us see, brains for us to think, and taste buds for that sweet post-ride beer! Unfortunately, many of these vital parts are easily injured during a crash, or even when riding on a hot day. Thankfully, most of us wear protection in the form of helmets and glasses/goggles, but even these can be overcome when you dead-sailor that jump a bit too hard.

Full Joey send!

Credit bikeradar.com

The head injury most of us are familiar with is a concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury. Many of you may have suffered one before, with symptoms like headache, memory issues, and blurry vision. The basics of concussion first aid are to minimize physical activity and prevent a second concussion, which can be difficult if one is way out there on a trail. My best advice is to find the shortest route back to civilization and, if possible, walk the bike back to minimize the chance of another fall. Take it easy, because the more you exercise right after a concussion, the longer the recovery time can be. Once you, or the injured person, is off the trail I strongly recommend a trip to the Emergency Room to get checked out.

Another common head injury is heat injury, which can be divided into heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Now wait, you’re probably thinking, how is that a head injury? While a heat injury does affect the whole body, it is often the effects on the brain that cause most of the symptoms. When it comes to first aid for heat injuries, the best way to treat them is in fact to prevent them. Staying hydrated, minimizing time in the heat and direct sun, and taking breaks are all important. Also, heat injuries occur more easily during high humidity, so just because you can crank out 30 miles in the Arizona heat doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do the same thing during your summer vacation to Florida! If someone does suffer a heat injury (mild cases, also known as heat exhaustion, consist mostly of headache, dizziness, and feeling exhausted) the most important thing is to get them out of the heat (even a little shade will help!) and get them hydrated. Just like with a concussion, take it easy and head back. If the person is unconscious or seems very confused despite the above measures, it may be a sign of a heat stroke, a much more serious form of heat injury. This is a life threating medical emergency, so call for help right away!

I guess that’s one way to cool off…

Credit: Google Images

Shoulder Injury

Shoulder injuries are some of the most common in mountain biking, and here we’ll briefly cover three of them: a separated shoulder, a dislocated shoulder, and a broken collarbone.

Separated shoulder:

Hmm, something looks wrong here…

Credit: stack.com