Riding motorcycles can be the best thing in the world. But when it goes wrong it can be the worst. Knowing what to do if one of your mates has a nasty off may be the difference between them making a full recovery from their injuries and a far worse outcome. We don’t want to be maudlin here but we’ve picked a pretty dangerous pastime and things can go badly wrong and escalate very quickly.
The recent video of a rider in Australia being impaled on a branch shows just this. The rider was lucky to survive the accident without serious injuries, but still required artery repairs, two skin grafts and numerous stitches. What is perhaps more worrying was his friends comment ‘ There’s nothing else to do but pull it out’ before proceeding to yank the woodwork out of the guy’s leg. This decision could have resulted in catastrophic blood loss to the rider and is the reason that common practice is to leave any such objects in place.
Here’s the video – it’s pretty graphic and includes a fair bit of effing and jeffing which is understandable in the circumstances. If you think you might be offended, don’t press play!
Now things appear to have worked out in the rider’s favour this time and we are very aware it’s all too easy to be wise after the event – but things could easily have been far, far worse.
So for this week’s blog, we thought we’d look at the basic steps to follow if one of your riding buddies does have an accident. We’re not going to advise you on surgical intervention or roadside surgery here – just sensible steps to control what is already a bad situation.
We’ve taken advice from Ride Expeditions chief Paramedic Peter Barrow (MAcadMEd), the Managing Director and owner of the European Medical Academy to ensure the points below reflect a sensible and safe approach to such situations.
As a caveat to this blog, we would advise all riders to enlist in a proper certified first aid course and to ask specific questions to the trainers regarding motorcycle injuries, and in particular the advice on when and how to remove helmets.
OK so lets assume you come round a corner and your mate and their bike are on the ground. You are only going to be of any use to him or her if you remain uninjured yourself, so this should be your first consideration.
If you are riding in a group, get the next guy through to alert the rest of the riders to prevent them ploughing into the two of you. You might want to consider placing your bike in a position that offers some protection to the rider on the deck and yourself. If you are on the road and have hazard lights on your bike, get them on pretty sharpish.
No matter what the severity of the accident, it’s going to be an awful lot easier to deal with if everybody stays calm. Raised voices and high emotion is not going to help, so take a few seconds to gain composure and clear you head. The guy on the ground is now relying on you so he doesn’t need a headless chicken.
SPEAK AND REASSURE
So your buddy is feeling pretty bad at the moment, so the first thing you need to do is speak to him or her. Don’t be dramatic, don’t be over sympathetic, just try and find out what has happened and what hurts – this information may prove vital to the emergency services, so try to focus and remember it. If the rider is unclear and mumbling his answers, this is again something you need to pass on, as it may be indicative of concussion or worse.
If it’s somebody you don’t know, then try to establish their name, age and what they remember about the crash or incident.
IF NOT TALKING, CHECK FOR BREATHING
It’s possible that the rider will not be in a able to respond, and if so you need to know pretty swiftly whether that’s because they are unconscious and breathing or not breathing at all.
If they are not breathing, then you are going to need to act promptly – this takes priority over everything else.
HELMET – REMOVE OR NOT
In the event of a serious injury, the only time you should consider removing the helmet on an injured rider is if they are clearly having significant difficulty breathing or are not breathing at all. If this is the case there will be no choice but to remove the helmet to allow the opening of the airway and if necessary, appropriate CPR – Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. If you do find yourself in this situation, enlist the help of another rider to gently remove the helmet without jarring. As we said in the intro – knowledge of when and how to remove helmets is vital so get some appropriate training.
If the rider is breathing normally, then leave the helmet in place and if they are complaining of neck pain, try to encourage them to leave it in on until the emergency services arrive.
TAKE CONTROL AND DELEGATE
As the first guy on the scene, it’s important that you take ownership of the situation. Delegate what to do to other members of the group – you will be surprised just how easily people go along with calm and effective leadership in a crisis. If however there is someone vastly more qualified to do this – for instance one of your mates is a paramedic – then don’t be to proud to let them take over.
This is about the downed rider – not you.
CONTACT THE EMERGENCY SERVICES
If the situation requires it, delegate one of your mates to contact the appropriate emergency services, giving them as much information as possible about the location of the casualty – using GPS coordinates if possible.
Pass on the nature of the injury and the rider themselves including age and any known medical conditions prior to the accident. The more information they have prior to arriving on the scene the better, but make sure it’s relevant – they don’t need to know he rides a Honda ….
MAKE THE RIDER COMFORTABLE
If you are waiting for the emergency services or help to arrive, you need to keep the injured rider comfortable, but try not to move them unless absolutely essential. If it’s blazing hot, then maybe some shade would help – if it’s lashing with rain, then something to prevent them getting drenched is a good idea. You are trying to keep them in a stable condition and temperature, so anything you can do to assist is a sensible consideration. If you’ve got them to sit on the floor, make sure they are sat on something to prevent them getting cold or wet.
MINIMISE BLOOD LOSS
If the accident has resulted in a serious and obvious injury that is bleeding, you need to take steps to minimise this. In the event of a penetrative injury, it’s advisable to leave the object in place as this is providing it’s own plug for the wound. Leave it to the emergency teams to remove as and when appropriate.
With open wounds, applying a clean cloth or ideally sterile dressing to cover the injury will reduce the risk of contamination. Similarly, if you have some latex gloves you can put on, then this may reduce the possibility of infection.
If the bleeding does not stop, then apply direct pressure to the wound and try to keep the injury above the heart. This is especially important with arterial bleeding where the blood will be bright red and can spurt out up to several feet!
Be aware that if they are losing blood, they may quickly become faint, so encourage them to lie down if they are not already doing so. In the event of internal bleeding, you will not be able to see anything so generally having the rider already on the ground will minimise any potential further injuries from falling or fainting.
CHECK THE PULSE
OK have you ever checked a pulse? If not, maybe try this on your partner or another rider on a club night, as it’s far easier to get the knack when you are not in an emergency situation. You can do it on the wrist like the doctor does, or under the back of the jawline as it’s a stronger pulse and usually easier to feel.
When you are sat with your casualty, then check the pulse every five minutes and either write it down or type it into a note on your phone. That way if it drops significantly you will be aware and can inform the emergency services.
Just because the rider responded well to start off with, don’t assume they’ll stay that way. Shock can take a while to sink in so staying with them and continuing to chat to them will reassure and allow you to monitor any changes.
Try to avoid giving them food as this will only confuse the body, and ideally keep the cigarettes for later. Keeping chatting will allow you to notice a change in their speech, response time and whether they are failing to understand simple questions.
We cannot stress enough the need for all riders, especially those who like to go off grid, to have appropriate training. Proper First aid training will allow you to deal with all manner of possible scenarios from broken bones to heart attacks out on the trails. Don’t kid yourself that you don’t need to know or rely on somebody else having the appropriate knowledge. Our sport carries inherent risks and the physical exertion of the more tricky stuff can place huge stresses on your body, especially if for the rest of the week the most exercise you get is opening a stubbie …
For details of local providers of Fist aid training, just stick it into Google and the results will pop up. In the UK it’s commonly British Red Cross or St John’s Ambulance, but other providers are out there.
All Ride Expeditions tours are accompanied by qualified medics, but the chances are that your own rides are not!
Share this with your mates – next time it could be you that gets injured
Don’t leave it until you need it – by then it’s too late.
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