Unfortunately, some of the most common bicycle accident injuries when involved in a crash with a vehicle can be very serious.

If you ride a bike, you’ve likely experienced a few scrapes and tumbles, but if you ride on city streets and share the road with automobiles, the risk of more serious bicycle accident injuries is very real.

Indeed, according to one study published by researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine, when people ride on the street their risk of serious injuries increases by orders of magnitude. Having an understanding of the symptoms and relative severity of the most common serious bicycle accident injuries could help safeguard your health and your life when trying to decide whether to call 9-1-1 after a bicycle accident.

Below, you’ll find a list of some of the most common injuries people suffer in bicycle accidents involving automobiles, and how to know when you need medical attention.

The study mentioned above detailed bicycle crash data collected from a wide variety of sources and collated the most common types of bicycle accident injuries suffered by people who had been struck by motor vehicles while cycling on roadways and bike lanes. The researchers found that most bicycle accident injuries impact:

  • The upper extremities (arms, wrists, hands.)

  • The lower extremities (hips, legs, ankles, feet.)

  • The head (skull, brain, face, mouth.)

  • The abdomen (ribs, internal organs, the groin.)

  • The neck (spine and throat.)

These injuries are listed in order of prevalence, but that could a bit misleading. While a typical bicycle accident victim suffers injuries to the upper and/or lower extremities, the same victim may also suffer injuries to the head and abdomen. Injuries to the neck are included in the list but they are actually far less common.

Most all victims of these common bicycle accident injuries also suffer abrasions, (commonly called road rash), which alone can be serious injuries requiring debriding of the wound and in some cases even skin grafts.

The Most Common Bicycle Accident Injuries and Their Symptoms

Upper and Lower Extremities 

By simply visualizing being struck by a vehicle while riding a bike, it’s not hard to imagine why damage to the upper or lower extremities is the most common type of bicycle accident injury seen in emergency rooms across the country. Often, the limbs are trapped between the bike and the automobile, or if the rider is thrown from the vehicle, these extremities come into contact with obstacles such as other automobiles, sign posts, and the road.

In such accidents, victims are likely to suffer injuries including:

  • Contusions (bad bruises.)

  • Fractures (broken bones.)

  • Torn connective tissue (ligaments and tendons.)

  • Lacerations (cuts.)

  • Abrasions (road rash.)

While active bleeding may signal abrasions and lacerations, broken bones may be harder to diagnose. Victims often experience pain and swelling with a fractured or broken bone, but dislocation of the limb severe enough to be visually detectable is less common.

Other common bicycle accident injuries involving the extremities can be difficult to detect – soft tissue injuries (such as muscle tears) may express no symptoms until hours after the accident.

Head Trauma

Traumatic injury to the head can be extremely serious and life-threatening. Indeed, roughly 60% of all fatal bicycle accidents include head trauma. Types of head trauma include:

  • Skull fracture.

  • Lacerations.

  • Contusions.

  • Concussions.

  • Facial or dental damage.

While some types of trauma (such as dental damage) are easy to spot, intracranial hemorrhaging is a serious, potentially life-threatening medical emergency that may be unnoticeable for hours or even days after the accident. Symptoms of such injuries include:

  • Dizziness.

  • Vomiting.

  • Loss of consciousness.

  • Confusion.

  • Seizures.

  • Pain/headaches.

Head injuries occur in up to half of all seriously injured bicyclists. If you’ve suffered any sort of head trauma – even if you’re not experiencing symptoms – it’s essential that you get checked out by a medical professional immediately. Medical imaging may be the only way to determine whether you’re bleeding internally, and catching such an injury early in some cases may be the only way to save your life.

Wearing a helmet can reduce your risk of suffering fatal head injuries in a bicycle accident by up to 65%.

Abdominal Injuries

Common abdominal bike crash injuries seen by medical professionals include:

  • Fractured ribs.

  • Bruising.

  • Internal bleeding.

  • Puncture wounds.

These often occur when the rider is thrown from the bike in the impact, and collides with an object while in motion. While almost all of these injuries will cause a certain amount of pain, you can look for signs of serious injury at the scene of the crash by performing a few quick checks.

Take a Deep Breath 

If you’ve fractured a rib and are in danger of potentially puncturing a lung, deep breathing will often be painful. If you’re experiencing internal bleeding, you may also feel tightness in your chest, or be unable to draw a complete breath.

Gently Probe Yourself

Using your fingertips, gently push on portions of your abdomen and/or groin that are tender. If the pain is severe or if pushing on the area greatly increases it, you could be suffering from an undiagnosed internal injury. In addition, if any areas of your abdomen feel hard or stiff the touch, this could signal an internal rupture and bleeding even if there is no pain associated with it.

Look at Yourself

In the heat of the moment, many people fail to simply look themselves over after a crash. Look for anything that might clue you in to a potential injury, like blood, torn clothing, abrasions, dislocations, or swelling.

Neck Injuries

Neck injuries aren’t as common as one might expect in bicycle accidents – head trauma happens much more frequently. When they do occur, however, spinal injuries can be extremely serious, and are a leading cause of permanent disability from a bicycle crash.

It’s important that you remain as still as possible if you believe you may have injured your spine, as any motion could potentially worsen the injury. Symptoms of possible neck/spine injury include:

  • Numbness.

  • Tingling.

  • Inability to move fingers or toes.

Even soft tissue injuries in the spinal region can cause significant impairment, and could even lead to permanent nerve damage. As with head trauma, if you believe you may have injured your neck at all after a bicycle accident, seek medical attention immediately.

Serious Bicycle Accident Injuries Can Be Costly

While there are various kinds of serious bicycle accident injuries that can result from being hit by a car, these injuries generally have one thing in common – they can be extremely expensive. A single day of hospitalization can cost several thousand dollars – common surgeries that much or more.

If you’ve been seriously hurt in a bike crash caused by another person, you may not have to pay those expenses out of pocket. Successfully pursuing an insurance claimor a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault individual(s) can result in your medical expenses being completely covered by your settlement or award.

Even if you’ve already paid some of your medical costs out of pocket, you may be able to secure reimbursement of those funds. You owe it to yourself to speak with an experienced bicycle accident attorney to see what legal options are available to you to maximize your compensation.