The amount of injuries and their severity depends on how fast you are going, what you hit and how much protective clothing you are wearing. Protective clothing will minimise injuries, not necessarily eliminate them completely. If you don’t have any protective clothing, read our guide here. If you are starting out learning how to ride a motorbike, get the best protective gear you can.
98% of multiple vehicle collisions and 96% of single vehicle collisions involving a motorbike resulted in some kind of injury with 45% being more than a minor injury. Over three-quarters of motorbike accidents involve collisions with other vehicles, most commonly when the other vehicle pulls out in front of the rider. So while there is a chance that you will have an accident, there are a lot of things you can do to minimise the risk of receiving the following injuries.
It’s common to see motorcyclists wearing jeans and trainers – in hotter weather you’ll even see them wearing shorts – but the problem with this is that jeans (and skin) are not good protection against sliding along tarmac at speed. It takes less than two seconds for tarmac to wear through jeans. After that it’s just your skin, then your fat, then your muscles. Needless to say, horrific injuries can occur where the tarmac wears through to the bone which not only is highly disfiguring, but also can leave permanent nerve damage that causes ongoing pain forever.
Minor road rash may still need to be treated with skin grafts. Check this video out for serious injuries.
A helmet is designed to cushion the impact of a blow to the head, but there will still be massive deceleration forces going through your brain and skull if you hit something immovable. This rapid deceleration causes the brain to hit the inside of the skull. The brain is a fairly soft organ and these types impacts can cause bleeding and serious damage to the brain. At the lowest end of the scale you could be concussed and at the most severe you could suffer permanent brain damage or death.
If you have a traumatic brain injury such as that suffered by F1 driver Michael Schumacher, it can means months if not years of rehabilitation and a permanent reliance on others to perform even basic tasks.
If you are concussed you could make a full recovery over time if you haven’t been concussed before. However, this isn’t the case every time as concussion can leave you with diminished mental faculties. At the very least you will have one or more of these symptoms for between a day or two and several months:
- Ringing ears
- Slurred speech
- Amnesia (memory loss)
- Problems concentrating
- Sensitivity to noise and light
- Fainting and loss of consciousness
- Insomnia (inability to sleep)
Some of the above, like epilepsy, will restrict you from doing other things like driving. You may have to get an accident assessor to confirm that you are fit to drive.
Here’s how concussion works.
If you choose not to wear a full face helmet (read our guide on helmets here) then you risk severe facial injuries that can disfigure you for life. Around a third of impacts will be taken on the chin and if you think your chin is a match for a guardrail then you will probably do well at boxing.
If you are riding at 60mph and a vehicle is coming towards you at 60mph the closing speed is 120mph. If a stone is flicked up by that vehicle it could hit you in the eye and blind you. Even a small fly hitting your eye at 30mph will be extremely painful and, because your immediate reaction will be to close your eyes, you will then be blind to the road. Check out our guide to choose glasses and goggles, however, the best protection is to wear a full face helmet or a modular helmet and keep the visor down.
If you have a severe frontal impact that stops the head abruptly the eye can come out of the socket. There isn’t anything you can do about this.
If you ride a bike without a muffler for long periods of time and don’t use ear plugs then you are at risk of gradually damaging your hearing. You will first notice that high frequencies are gone – it’ll be more difficult to hear what people are saying when there’s a lot of background noise, and you’ll find you have the TV turned up louder. At the moment hearing loss is not reversible, although you can use a hearing aid to help boost high frequencies.
Broken bones can be caused a number of ways in a motorbike accident: hitting another vehicle or solid object, hitting or being hit by your bike, or hitting the ground (especially in the case of a highside accident). If you hit another vehicle then your limbs can hit parts of the bike like the handlebars which can break bones. As you hit the ground, if you lead with your shoulder that can often break a collarbone. This injury can damage nerves in the shoulder and cause ‘biker’s arm’ which is an ongoing pain or tingling sensation in the arm.
With a minor break you will be out for a for weeks; with a major break you might require multiple surgeries and pins holding your bones together. If you break your back then you might end up in a wheelchair for life.
Ankle injuries can be caused if the bike runs over the rider’s leg.
As you are riding straddling a large object with lots of hard projections, sliding forwards quickly on the seat as you hit an object will probably mean that your groin impacts on the petrol tank or the instruments. 13% of motorbike crashes result in a groin injury. We have these words for you: bilateral traumatic testicular dislocation. It sounds painful and undoubtedly is.
Blunt force trauma can cause minor injuries like bruising but if you get hit in the stomach with your handlebars it can rupture your spleen.
If this article has given you some concerns, that’s great. Go out and buy the safety gear you need to feel safe on your bike. Yes, it’s a hassle to wear it, but it’s more of a hassle to be paralysed for life.
Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.