You never heard of a stealth injury? Read on.
I had a bad fall riding my bike Sunday morning. It was raining here in Chicago and I was rolling over wet pavement. I have done this thousands of times and understand that you need to slow down in these conditions. I did slow down, too, just not enough. As a result I went flying off the bike on a really slow turn as the tires lost traction on the wet street. Picking myself up painfully from the asphalt, I saw Mark Twain’s famous quote on biking ticker tape before my eyes – “Get a bicycle. You will not regret it – if you live.”
A wonderful fun ride over dry pavement on another day.
My brief flight ended with me landing squarely on my hands and knees. Thankfully, my biking gloves protected my hands from dirt and glass on the street surface. My knees didn’t fare nearly as well. Both knees were filthy and a bit bloody.
I got myself home and cleaned off the street grit from my knees. I also washed them with antibacterial soap to prevent any infection. So I looked like a little kid with two skinned knees. My girlfriend helped me get them both bandaged up to protect the open wounds.
Alternatively, my hands looked just fine. I got the street dirt and grease washed off and nothing showed. I had lunch and walked the dog. I found myself kind of dreading riding again because I found myself fearing another fall. Not wanting to ‘chicken out’, I decided to ride one of my other bikes, so I could take the dog along.
And that’s when I discovered my stealth injuries. It proved nearly impossible to hold on to the handlebars because it hurt my hands so much to put any pressure on them. Keep in mind that when riding a bike, you lean forward and probably 10 to 30 percent of your body weight is carried by – your hands. Although I only weigh in the mid 150s, it was really painful to hold on to the handlebars. I found myself adjusting my hands to reduce the pressure on the injuries in my palms. After about five minutes of this, I came to the conclusion that I was sowing the seeds of another fall. It is not smart to try to balance and steer in less than the most efficient manner. I turned the bike around and went home. This morning, my hands were still very tender and I didn’t take the bike out at all.
I thought it ironic that my banged up knees looked bad, but had no influence on my ability to ride at all. On the other hand, my hands which looked perfectly fine, made it impossible to ride safely without excruciating pain. Truly stealth injuries.
The good news about riding my bike is that it exercises my cardiovascular system, sends oxygen molecules to my brain creating new neurotransmitters that fight off dementia, promotes my all ‘round physical conditioning and, lastly, it feels like I am flying over the pavement every time I ride. The bad news is that sometimes a guy falls. While this anecdote revolves around a bike ride, it could just as easily be a runner’s accident or anything else you might be doing with your body in motion.
I took a bad fall Friday riding on the Chicago Lakefront. A runner cut in front of me and I reacted with a death grip on the hand brakes. The front wheel locked and threw me OVER the front of the bike. I was wearing my helmet and my cabeza never hit the ground, but I landed with my full weight onto the concrete on my hands and knees.
Coincidentally, 15 years ago, almost to the day, I had a similar fall when my feet got stuck in the pedal straps and I landed with my full weight on my left hand. I fractured the scaphoid bone in my wrist and spent two months in a cast and a third wearing a splint. I couldn’t ride for those three months.
After a sports injury or sprain, first aid comes first. The acronym RICE summarizes the approach:
• Rest the injured part as soon as it is hurt to avoid further injury.
• Ice the area of pain to decrease swelling and bleeding.
• Compress the area with an elastic bandage to limit swelling and bleeding.
• Elevate the injured part above the level of the heart to increase drainage of fluids out of the injured area. Continue reading
I stumbled across a man about my age lying bleeding in the alley with his bicycle on the ground a few feet away. His eyeglasses scattered in smithereens on the ground. A young man approached me looking distraught and asked if I would mind watching the victim, his father, while he went to get his car so he could take him to the ER at the hospital. I agreed.
First of all this was unnerving to see a man around my age who had obviously been biking lying on the ground a bloody mess. The words, there but for the grace of god … rolled through my mind. I ride my bike in this same place every day of my life.
Here I am making circuits on Chicago’s Northerly Island bike path avec pooch.
I inventoried his condition. A gash about 1-1/2 inches above his eye bleeding that was going to need at least a dozen stitches. Obviously, his face had hit the alley. Both hands bloody and dirty with pieces of broken glass and other debris obvious. His elbow was also bleeding. I was dying to ask how it happened, but didn’t want to disturb him as he lay there in obvious pain.
It wasn’t long before his son came and helped him into the car. They locked up the bike on a nearby rail. Continue reading