Even with the best biking education and years of experience, many triathletes will experience a crash. I learned a lot from surviving a scary one and I hope my experience, along with these recommendations, can help you prevent—or bounce back from—a crash.
Avoid a crash
Expert tips for stacking the odds in your favor:
“When I go on training group rides, I am hyper-aware of everyone around me and am always looking for an escape route if someone goes down.” Tim DeBoom, two-time Ironman world champion
“Check that your tires are not overly worn, your wheels are true and that braking and shifting are in good working condition. Many times these issues can cause a crash or make avoiding one that much more difficult.” Zach Edwards, pro bike mechanic, Boulder Cycle Sport
“A great strength-training program can establish good joint stability and optimal range of motion and may help you to avoid some crashes or bounce back more quickly following one.” Erin Carson, personal trainer and age-group triathlete
If you do crash, proper long-term recovery should begin right away.
“Ask your emergency room providers for specific wound care supplies like saline, Tegaderm, silver sulfa and sponges rather than gauze pads to aid healing of road rash. The ER is primarily focused on evaluating for head and spinal cord and internal organ injury. Once these injuries have been excluded, make an appointment with a sports medicine therapist to help diagnose and treat potential maladies.” Dr. Jeremy Rodgers, medical director, Rocky Mountain Ironman Events
“Burn centers can work wonders on third-degree/full thickness road rash. They have a totally different regimen than the ER and you heal a lot faster.” Andria Lenoble, age-group triathlete
Bounce back with confidence
Once you’re ready, follow some of these tips to ensure a successful return:
“Have your bike inspected professionally. In addition to cosmetic issues like bar tape and pedals, you’ll want to have the bike checked for cracks—especially carbon frames, bars and wheels.” Edwards
“Stay as active as possible after an acute trauma. Maintaining some level of activity (even a few minutes a day) can actually aid healing.” Charlie Merrill, physical therapist at Merrill Performance
“Being back on the bike is a bit unnerving, which in itself can cause another crash. Start out where you feel safest and don’t have too much caffeine before your ride.” Laurie Mizener, triathlete and former U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials competitor
“Recovery acupuncture is great for rehabilitating muscles and tendons, providing balanced energy to a potentially traumatized body.” Tyler Stroebel, licensed acupuncturist
“Start on the indoor trainer to make sure body parts work in stationary mode before heading outside.” Karen Lipinsky, age-group triathlete
Five keys to properly healing road rash
1. Once it’s clean and treated, leave it alone and keep it covered by Tegaderm or similar product. If it’s exposed or gets cold, the wound goes into shock and healing slows down.
2. If it oozes a milky or opaque discharge, it might be infected. Dry it out and reclean it, or treat with a topical antibiotic.
3. Don’t let it get too dry, which can make healing slower and the scar worse.
4. The ideal healing environment is slightly moist with nice, new, pink tissue and clean, regular margins (edges).
5. Once healed, avoid exposing the scar to excessive sunlight for at least a year. — Charlie Merrill
Fliegelman is the owner and head coach of FastForward Sports (Fastforwardsports.net) in Boulder, Colo.
Follow Triathlete on Twitter @Triathletemag for inspiration, new workout ideas, gear reviews from our editors and more.