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All About Road Rash

The term road rash is all too familiar for bikers and cyclists. Road rash is a type of friction burn or skin abrasion that occurs when a person’s body comes into contact with the rough surface of the road. Any accident victim can suffer road rash if they get thrown from their vehicle. However, those who ride motorcycles and bicycles are the most vulnerable to road rash injuries.

The most severe cases of road rash can change a person’s life, causing devastation for victims and their families. This guide about road rash offers in-depth information about the different types and classifications of road rash. Medical professionals categorize road rash by varying degrees of severity. We also offer some tips for avoiding road rash in the event of a motorcycle or bicycle accident.

Two Main Types of Road Rash

When an individual’s body comes in contact with a road surface like concrete, gravel, or asphalt, they can suffer a wide range of injuries. Many of the different injuries fall under one of two main types of road rash injuries:

Avulsion Injury

An avulsion injury is the most common type of road rash. Avulsion injuries occur when layers of a person’s skin peel away from the body as it slides across a road surface. This type of road rash can expose layers of fat, muscle, and, in the most severe cases, bone. Surface scrapes, sometimes called raspberries or strawberries, typically heal quickly without extensive medical intervention. For the most extreme avulsion injuries, victims may be required to undergo multiple surgeries to apply skin grafts to the affected areas.

Compression Injury

Although less common, compression injuries occur when the body or its limbs are crushed between two things. Compression injuries are most likely to occur in a motorcycle accident when the weight of a motorcycle crushes the rider’s body against the road. Compression injuries may cause bruising, soft tissue damage, and multiple fractures. More often than not, compression injuries need immediate medical attention. In the worst cases, victims must receive long term treatment for weeks, months, or years after the accident.

Medical Professionals Categorize Road Rash Injuries by Degree

Road rash penetrates layers of the skin, much like heat or chemical burns. Similar to burns, medical professionals also categorize road rash by degree of severity. Depending on the degree assigned to the injury, doctors are better able to treat road rash injuries. Below we describe each degree of road rash to show how widely road rash injuries can vary. These descriptions are not intended to enable injured victims to self-diagnose their injuries. If you have suffered road rash injuries in a traffic accident, immediately seek a medical evaluation.

The varying degrees of road rash include:

  • First-degree road rash is the most minor road rash injury. In this type of road rash, only the top layer of skin is affected. First-degree road rash is very similar to the wound a child might experience if they take a tumble and scrape their knee. In many cases, first-degree road rash injuries fully heal in a short amount of time without leaving any permanent scars. Visiting a doctor is necessary when involved in an accident caused by another party. However, many who suffer first-degree road rash choose not to seek medical treatment.
  • Second-degree road rash causes more damage because it extends beyond the top layer of skin, or the epidermis. Typically, these road rash injuries heal fairly well without intervention and leave minimal scarring. However, road rash wounds pose a risk because they collect pieces of sand, dirt, and gravel when skin slides across a road surface. If you have sustained a second-degree road rash, it is important to seek a medical evaluation to ensure the wound is cleaned properly. Inadequate cleaning of the wound can lead to severe, sometimes fatal infections. Also, doctors sometimes have to remove pieces of debris stuck in the wound.
  • Third-degree road rash is the most severe and can impact an accident victim for the rest of their life. This type of road rash occurs when all layers of the skin peel away from the body, leaving soft tissue exposed. The most severe cases of third-degree road rash may expose bone. Accident victims who suffer third-degree road rash should always go to the hospital immediately. Once doctors clean the wounds, it’s likely surgery may be necessary. Surgery may involve skin grafts from other parts of your body to promote new skin growth in the affected area. At times, victims may require multiple surgeries to reconstruct the affected area, and even after reconstruction, permanent scarring is likely.

Avoiding Road Rash When Riding

You never have control over others on the road, but you can take some steps to ensure you don’t suffer road rash. The following tips can prevent or reduce the severity of road rash and increase the chances of avoiding permanent damage:

  • Wear your helmet. Georgia has a statewide helmet law requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets and all cyclists under age 16 to wear a helmet. Those who choose not to wear helmets are not only breaking the law, but they put themselves at risk for road rash. Additionally, failing to wear a helmet increases the risks of further damage, including traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBIs can cause lifelong complications impacting injured victim’s cognition and motor skills. Victims of severe TBI may have difficulty performing basic tasks or caring for themselves independently.
  • Wear proper clothing.Motorcyclists don’t just wear leather for style. Leather protects riders from the elements. In addition, leather can prevent road rash because it absorbs some of the friction that may happen in a motorcycle accident. Protective clothing may not totally prevent road rash injuries, it can prevent some cases and significantly decrease the severity of others. Because bicyclists travel at a slower rate of speed, they typically sustain less severe road rash injuries in an accident. Yet, cyclists should always wear pants and close-toed shoes to prevent road rash injuries. Your local bicycle shop can advise you on the best protective gear.
  • Wear gloves. If you fall on your motorcycle or bicycle, you may instinctively try to break your fall with your hands. A good pair of riding gloves can protect you from road rash injuries on your hands and arms. As an added bonus, riding gloves can also prevent wrist fractures.
Personal Injury lawyer

David Brauns, Motorcycle Accident Attorney

If you suffered road rash injuries in an accident caused by another party, you may want to seek compensation.

A motorcycle accident attorney can help you learn about your next steps.


Brauns Law, P.C.
3175 Satellite Boulevard, Bldg 600
Suite 330
Duluth, GA 30096
(404) 205-8614

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