In 2019, 5,115 people died and 79,000 were injured in motorcycle crashes. Here are 10 common injuries after a motorcycle accident.
Due to potential instability and lack of sufficient protection on the vehicle, motorcycle use can account for a significantly higher fatal crash rate.
Common Injuries Following a Motorcycle Accident
1. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, occurs when a head hits an object with substantial force, when the head is severely shaken, or when a skull is punctured. TBI is one of the most serious injuries in motorcycle accidents. TBI is commonly sustained when a motorcyclist fails to wear a helmet. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 15% of motorcyclists have been diagnosed with TBI.
People with TBIs may suffer from physical and cognitive deficits, such as intellectual impairment, communication issues, behavioral changes, and emotional distress. Though the aftershock may be treated through surgery, most TBIs have lifelong effects.
Additional head and brain injuries can include:
- Skull fracture
- Severe road rash on the scalp area
- Damage to facial bones
Related: California Motorcycle Helmet Laws
2. Spinal Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can be temporary, permanent, or even fatal. Depending on the specific area, the motorcyclist may not be able to walk, use their arms, or restore basic function in their limbs. A spinal injury may occur if a motorcycle hits the ground on its spine, or if the motorcyclist is crushed by heavy objects.
Whiplash is caused by a violent jerking of acceleration and deceleration during an accident and can cause neck sprains in the muscles and ligaments. If the impact is not directly on the spine, whiplash may cause serious damage due to weaker muscles on either side of the neck. If whiplash is suspected, seek medical attention or physiotherapy as a precaution.
Whiplash may not be felt until the morning after the car accident. However, by then, affected muscles may have seized up. Pain can clear in a week, but in rare cases, the damage is permanent.
Lacerations are deep cuts on the skin. Though lacerations can look like scrapes and bruises and thus be downplayed, improper treatment of lacerations may lead to serious infections and/or tendon and nerve damage.
5. Broken or Fractured Ribs/Limbs
Broken limbs and ribs, especially ankle injuries, are common when a motorcyclist is thrown from the bike and lands in an uncomfortable position.
6. Internal Bleeding
Forceful collisions between motorcycles and other vehicles may cause internal bleeding, which is not visible on the outside of the body. Failure to diagnose and treat internal bleeding can lead to death.
Examples of internal bleeding include:
- Aorta tears
- Tears in the spleen or liver
- Bleeding in the lungs
Although internal injuries cannot be seen on one’s exterior body, keep an eye out for any of the following symptoms after an accident:
- Loss of consciousness or headache
- Swelling or pain in the abdomen
- Discoloration of the skin
- Light-headedness or fainting
If any of the above symptoms are recognized, seek medical attention.
7. Organ Damage
The impact of a motorcycle accident may lead the cyclist to suffer organ damage. Blunt force, penetration of sharp objects, and decelerated jerking of the body can cause organs to be pierced and other organs to shift. All injuries can lead to major blood loss, especially in the abdominal organs, heart, and brain.
8. Facial Disfigurement
Broken facial bones are difficult to immobilize while the plaintiff is transported. If a motorcyclist sustains facial disfigurement, the injury may require medical care to prevent dislodging and damage.
Facial injuries may include:
- Broken facial bones
- Dislocated nose
- Temporary and permanent eye injuries
- Sensory damage
- Jaw and dental injuries
Motorcycle accidents resulting in facial injuries can be the following:
- Head-on collisions
- High-side accidents (when the rider is flung from the motorcycle)
- Open car door collisions
- Sudden stops
Road rash, also known as road burn, occurs when a person’s skin skids and creates friction on the road. In an accident, a road rash is most likely to happen if a cyclist is thrown from their motorcycle and slides across the surface. Road burn can be present on any part of the body that comes in contact with the asphalt. Though a road burn may not be fatal, severe treatment can require skin grafts or leave scars. With antibiotics, bandages, and disinfectant lotion, road rashes heal over time. However, if internal pain lasts longer than 24 hours, one should immediately go to the emergency room.
The causes of road rash include:
- The initial velocity during the accident
- The speed when the skin contacts the surface of the road
- The type and hardness of the surface
- The length of the slide
- Weather conditions
- The existence or lack of protective gear
Different types of road rash include:
- Avulsion (the surface of the skin is stripped away)
- Compression (body is crushed between two objects)
The severity of road rash may be classified by:
- First-degree (affecting only the top layer of skin and results in temporary scars)
- Second-degree (a torn epidermis resulting in a laceration)
- Third-degree (the exposure of the dermis require skin grafts)
10. Burn injuries
Burns affect skin and tissue injuries if the cyclist is exposed to elements like heat, electricity, radiation, friction, or chemicals. Motorcycle injuries may be caused by fire or contact with exhaust pipes. The severity of burns can be categorized four ways:
- First-degree (temporarily affects the outer layer of skin, like sunburn)
- Second-degree (can result in permanent discoloration of the skin or scarring)
- Third-degree (destruction of the epidermis and dermis are not as painful compared to second-degree burns, as nerve endings are burned off)
- Fourth-degree (all layers of skin are destroyed, potentially including the bone and require immediate medical attention)
Causes of burn injuries may include:
- Contact with the exhaust pipe or engine
- Chemical burns from fluids or gasoline
- Contact with corrosive substances like battery acid