Most Common Injuries from Bicycle Accidents

Bicycle accident injuries, or crashes, happen more often than you might think in Massachusetts and throughout the country. In Boston alone, hundreds of injured cyclists seek medical treatment each year for crash-related injuries.

Bicycle accident injuries range from minor skin abrasions to severe injuries that permanently affect a person's health and well-being. For most cyclists, being injured is a temporary setback. After a period of healing, they are back on their bicycles, ready to hit the road again. Sadly, this is not the case in every bicycle accident. Many cyclists suffer catastrophic injuries from which they will never fully recover.

Below, the bicycle accident attorneys at Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers detail the most common bicycle accident injuries that they see in our Boston law office:

1. Concussion/Head Injuries: Statistics vary, but between 25% to 50% of all injured bicyclists suffer concussions or other head injuries. Head injuries are responsible for more than 60% of bicycle accident fatalities.

A head injury is a broad term used to describe a wide array of injuries to a person's scalp, skull, or brain. Sometimes a head injury is called a brain injury or a traumatic brain injury (TBI for short), depending on the seriousness of the injury.

Head injuries are one of the most common causes of death and disability in adults. Mild head injuries include bumps, bruises, and minor cuts. Moderate to severe injuries include concussions, deep cuts, open wounds, fractured skull bones, internal bleeding, and brain damage. A concussion is a blow to the head that may cause a loss of alertness or awareness for a few minutes to a few hours.

Post-concussive syndrome can manifest with neurological symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, vertigo, sensitivity to light, or memory problems. 

A bicycle accident can also cause an intracranial hematoma, a blood clot in or near the brain, which can be mild or severe and life-threatening.

While people riding bicycles and other sports participants are at risk of suffering head injuries, bicyclists are more likely to require a visit to an emergency department for a TBI.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, males 18 years of age and older and children from 10 to 14 years of age are the most likely to suffer a bicycle-related TBI. That is why proper fitting helmets are so important for every cyclist.

2. Spinal Cord Injuries: A bicyclist who sustains an impact to the spine can suffer fractures in the bone, nerve damage, or damage to the disks in the spine. These injuries often cause permanent changes in a person's strength, sensation, and body function below the location of the injury.

Bicycling and other sports and recreational activities are responsible for about 10% of spinal cord injuries. The nature of bicycling leaves cyclists vulnerable to spinal cord injuries, especially when motor vehicles are involved. In most cases, the spine injury is not caused by the vehicle's impact but by the bicycle rider being thrown to the hard pavement or curb. A good, proper-fitting bicycle helmet can help protect against some head injuries. No protective gear can shield a cyclist from a spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord injuries can be devastating. Individuals with this kind of injury often experience mental, emotional, and social effects.

Spinal cord injuries can cause different symptoms, including:

  • Loss of movement
  • Loss of sensation
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Altered sexual function
  • Pain from nerve damage
  • Breathing problems

In some instances, a spinal cord injury can be fatal.

Paralysis from a spinal cord injury is referred to as tetraplegia or quadriplegia (when a person's arms, hands, trunk, and legs are affected) or paraplegia (when all or part of a person's trunk and legs are impacted).

More men suffer spinal cord injuries than women. In the United States, men suffer about 80% of all traumatic spinal cord injuries. More than 50% of these injuries occur in men ages 16 to 30.

3. Facial Injuries: When a careless motorist crashes into a bicycle or suddenly pulls into a cyclist's path, the impact can cause a cyclist can strike their face on the stem or headtube of the bicycle, the car, or the pavement. The injured cyclist may suffer facial cuts and bruises and fracture any of the 14 bones in the face.

Common facial injuries that bicycle riders sustain include:

  • Broken noses: The nose protrudes beyond other facial features and is likely to fracture after a crash. A broken nose can be painful and cause disfigurement, breathing problems, sinus issues, and sleep apnea. In addition, some people who have broken their noses report a loss of sense of smell.

  • Broken or dislocated jaws:  Like the nose, the jawbone sticks out and is susceptible to fracture or dislocation during a bicycle accident. A broken jaw may need to be wired for weeks during the healing process, forcing the accident victim to consume only liquids.

  • Eye injuries:  A bicycle crash can cause eye trauma and even loss of eyesight.

  • Dental injuries: Teeth can be chipped, broken, or completely knocked out in a bicycle crash. Dental work is painful and costly if implants or veneers are needed. As all dental work is only semi-permanent, implants will need to be replaced every 10 to 20 years. 

In addition, bicycle riders can suffer broken cheekbones and orbital fractures. A blow to the face can cause temporary or permanent nerve damage. Cuts and scrapes that are left untreated can become infected. Facial lacerations may result in permanent scarring, even if the injury did not require stitches, and may require multiple reconstructive or scar revision surgery, depending on the type and severity of the injury.

Studies show that bicycle helmets can help reduce facial injuries among cyclists, especially in accidents involving cars and other motor vehicles.

4. Broken Bones: Cyclists traveling Boston's streets have exposed body parts that are vulnerable to impact injuries, including fractures.

Specific bones most often broken in bicycle accidents are:

  • Collarbones:  A bicyclist who extends an arm to break a fall may suffer a collarbone or clavicle fracture. The collarbone is the bone most likely to be broken in a bicycle accident. Treatment options range from immobilization in a sling to surgery requiring the insertion of a metal plate and screws.
  • Hands, wrists, and fingers: The delicate bones in a hand or wrist can break when a bicyclist tries to break their fall with a hand.
  • Hips and pelvises: A cyclist can suffer a broken hip or pelvis when struck by a car or following a hard landing on a roadway.
  • Femurs: The femur, also known as the thigh bone, is the largest bone in the human body. Many cyclists who suffer a fractured femur require surgery to repair the damage. Post-surgery complications, which are not uncommon, include infections and blood clots leading to strokes.
  • Arms: A fall from a bike can cause a fracture in one of the arm's three bones—the humerus, ulna, or radius.
  • Feet and ankles: A cyclist's feet are especially vulnerable in a bicycle crash. Each foot consists of 26 delicate bones that can be easily broken or crushed. Also, keep in mind that a cyclist's feet are often strapped or clipped onto the pedals. As a result, the cyclist's feet maintain a specific position, even when an impact from an accident forces the rest of the cyclist's body to move in a contrary way.

Bicycle riders sometimes break other bones, such as the ribs and bones found in the neck and back. It is not out of the ordinary for a bicyclist to break multiple bones in a single accident.

Broken bones have the potential to pierce and puncture internal organs. For example, a fractured rib can puncture a lung and turn a bone break into a life-threatening situation.

There are five types of bone fractures ranging from a simple fracture that almost always heals completely to a compound fracture in which the bone pierces the skin. Surgery is almost always needed to repair a compound fracture.

Surgical insertion of plates, screws, and other hardware is often required to repair broken bones. Sometimes this hardware is removed, but sometimes it is left inside the body. Unfortunately, people walking around with implanted hardware are prone to arthritis and other joint problems.

It is not unusual for child bicycle riders to break an arm, leg, or other bone in a bicycle accident. While many people think that children are resilient and quick to heal, a broken bone can be a big deal in a kid. If a bone growth plate is damaged, it can impede the natural growth of an arm or a leg, requiring multiple surgeries.

To learn how our bicycle accident attorneys can help with an injury claim, call Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers today at (617) 777-7777 or fill out our electronic form.

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