Facts About Road Rash

Road rash is a physical injury that is all too familiar to those who ride motorcycles. The injury is not exclusive to motorcycles, as it can affect bicyclists and even those in other motor vehicles which are ejected during a crash. The term road rash is used to describe injuries that occur when skin slides along the pavement during an accident. These injuries can range from mild to life-threatening to fatal.

Motorcycle riders have very little protection in the event of a crash. One study found that, in Texas, only nine percent of motorcycle riders who are involved in a crash of any type walk away without an injury. Comparatively, seventy-one percent of drivers and passengers of motor vehicles are uninjured when involved in a crash.

Road Rash Severity by Degrees

Skin abrasions and burns caused by asphalt, concrete, and gravel is the hallmark of road rash. These injuries are usually divided into two types:

  • Avulsion injury—the skin surface is abraded due to friction, causing lacerations that can range from superficial to stripping away layers of muscle and fat to the bone.
  • Compression injury—These injuries occur when any part of the body is crushed between two objects, such as the motorcycle and the road. Compression injuries are often seen in car and motorcycle accidents.

Factors that will affect the degree of road rash injury include:

  • The speed at the moment of impact
  • The speed with which the skin made contact with the road
  • Weather and other road conditions
  • Protective gear
  • The distance that the person slid along the surface

Like skin burns, road rash injuries are assigned degrees based on their severity. 

First-degree road rash affects only the top layer of skin. Scrapes, scratches, and the superficial rubbing away of the first layer of skin are common in first-degree road rash. Though usually minor, first-degree road rash can result in scarring, infections, or other impairments if it is over a large area of the body.

Second-degree injuries happen when the epidermis, the top layer of skin, tears. This can result in deep lacerations that expose the underlying parts of the skin resulting in an increased risk of infection. Other complications include permanent scarring, damage to muscles and tendons, and an increased risk of complications.

Third-degree road rash happens when the dermis, which is the second layer of skin, is peeled away. This leaves the underlying layers of muscle and fat exposed and can require extensive medical intervention. Skin grafts and even reconstructive surgery are often necessary after an accident causing third-degree road rash.

Choosing the Best Riding Gear to Prevent Road Rash

The only protection between your skin and the road is the clothing and safety equipment you choose to wear. Quality riding gear is worth the investment as it can serve to protect you from road rash or make any road rash you sustain less severe.

Helmet

The NHTSA estimates that helmets help reduce rider deaths by upward of thirty-seven percent. The helmet is most essential for protecting yourself from a traumatic brain injury, but it also serves as protection from road rash on your face and neck.

Jacket

Those unfamiliar with motorcycle riding may think that jackets are for fashion or comfort. Those who ride know that jackets offer a layer of protection against road rash for the torso, arms, and legs. The torso makes up the largest part of your body, so wearing an added layer of protection between your skin and the road can help protect you from some degree of road rash.

Pants

During even a minor crash, your legs are the most likely to come into contact with the ground. Many riders choose to ride in jeans, but regular denim will be quickly abraded away in an accident. Riding pants come in various materials, but the best ones include Kevlar reinforcement to protect against both impact and abrasion.

Gloves

Riding gloves have to be flexible and comfortable enough for long rides, yet do their job in offering protection for the hands in the event of a crash. There are numerous gloves on the market designed for comfort while still offering serious protection for your hands.

Boots

Foot and ankle damage are common in motorcycle accidents. Motorcycle specific boots offer ankle protection, oil-resistant soles, and help stiffen your foot to reduce flexing, making for a more comfortable ride. High-abrasion resistant material is critical to protect from severe road rash on the feet, ankles, and lower legs.