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After the Fall

Bike Crashes: Checklist for Cycling Parents

As a cyclist, I hated to crash (that's me in the photo; ouch!). Besides the immediate pain, the  week after the crash was miserable. Now, as a parent of two toddlers, I wonder how much worse it will be watching my children crash. I've always had a hard time watching bike crashes, but I can only imagine the panic and fear that will course through me when I know it's my child. It's a normal reaction to worry about your child's safety, but the best thing you can do for him after a fall off a bike (whether it be a track bike, a BMX bike, or a touring bike) is to stay calm. He's going to take his cues from you; if he sees you panic, he'll follow suit. Erin Mirabella  Post-Crash


1. Consult a Health Care Professional

If your child crashes while participating in a race or organized ride, hopefully there will be a paramedic, athletic trainer, or other health care professional on site. In those situations, be there to comfort your child, but let the professionals do his job.  

If paramedics aren't on site, make sure to have your child checked out by a medical professional if his injuries are more serious then superficial abrasions, and call 911 if you have any doubt.  It's always better to play it safe than be sorry.

2. Watch for Signs of Head Injury

Crashes happen fast and your child may not even be aware he hit his head; you should always check his helmet for scuffs and cracks.  If your child hits his head during the crash, look for signs or symptoms of a possible head injury and, if he exhibits signs of a concussion, monitor him carefully during the first 24 to 48 hours after the crash for signs of deteriorating mental status requiring immediate hospitalization.  A good rule of thumb is to wake up your child during the night to check for signs of deteriorating mental status, but only if he experienced a loss of consciousness or prolonged amnesia after the injury, or was still experiencing other significant post-concussion signs or symptoms at bedtime.  

3. Replace the Helmet

If your child hit his head during the crash, you should buy a new helmet, even if it isn't visibly cracked.  No exceptions.  If you don't believe me, look at the warning label on the inside of bike helmets, which say that helmets should be destroyed and replaced after impact and that damage to the helmet may be invisible.

4. See a Chiropractor

I'm married to a chiropractor, so I'm a bit biased, but even before I was, I always saw a chiropractor to get adjusted after a crash. Even at slow speeds, hitting the ground is extremely hard on the body. Injured muscles, tendons, ligaments, and spinal misalignment have the potential to hinder your child's recovery long after her road rash has healed. Chiropractors, especially one who specializes in Active Release Technique, will be able to break up scar tissue and get your child functioning back at 100%.

5. Get Her Back In The Saddle

The best thing to do after a crash is to get back on the bike. The longer your child waits the more apprehensive and timid he will be when he does. It's quite common for cyclists to jump right back in a race after a crash; if he isn't up for that, have him go for an easy spin either that day or the next. Besides the mental benefits, getting back on the bike will promote blood flow to his muscles and help them loosen up.

Erin Mirabella is a two-time Olympic track cyclist, mother, MomsTeam's track cycling expert, and children's book author.  Her books, Shawn Sheep The Soccer Star and Gracie Goat's Big Bike Race are available online at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com, velogear.com, and at The Olympic Training Centers and select stores.  For more information visit Erin's website.

Created May 3, 2010