7 Head Injury & Crash Tips – By Coach Elaine

*If you have hit your head in a crash – please seek medical attention as soon as possible. These 7 considerations are NOT a replacement for first-aid protocol – and we highly recommend riders take first-aid to understand the abc’s of tending to another rider who has crashed whether they hit their head or not.

Head injuries in sports are making a lot of news lately, which raises awareness about the severity of head injuries. Even so, the prevailing culture including athletes themselves, coaches, parents and sometimes even medical staff seemingly minimizes the importance of treating head injuries, unless someone loses consciousness or is obviously in trouble.

As mountain bikers, the last thing we want to do is stop riding. Unless we’re obviously hurt or our bike is broken, we’re ready to go. It’s amazing how hard of a crash we can take and seem completely fine, with just a few new bruises or scrapes and a story to tell.

Some very bad head injuries may not seem like anything at all, at first. But in the long term, especially after repeated head injuries what you do… or don’t do… after a crash can make a huge difference in how soon you’re back to 100 percent.


So what can you do to help yourself and your friends? Learn as much as you can, there’s a useful reading list at the end of this article. Here are some additional tips to help lessen the risk!

1. Check out your helmet for clues after ANY crash.
Is the helmet dirtier than before? Are there new scratches or scuffs? Is it dented? Immediately look at the foam liner for cracks or damage. You might need to look under the soft liner. Helmets are designed to do their job just once. It might look fine on the outside, but the foam inside could be compressed or cracked. Replace any helmet with damage! Many helmet company’s offer crash replacement deals, and even full complementary replacements. 

2. Riding alone and crash?
Tell a friend what happened. Was it a really hard crash? If you didn’t go to the hospital, spend the night at a friend’s house or have a friend stay with you! Serious symptoms may show up hours or even days later.

3. Ride with buddies.
If your friend crashes and passed out, has a headache, seems disoriented or dizzy, is nauseous, is bleeding or you see any other fluid coming from the head someplace or their face, has a stiff neck or can’t answer simple questions such as “what trail are we riding today” call 911 soon as you can. Stay with your friend and keep him or her in place. Send another rider down trail for cell service!

4. Leave the helmet on a rider who’s unconscious or badly hurt.
Use your first aid skills… reduce further exposure to danger, stop bleeding from other injuries, watch for signs of shock, keep the injured rider calm, still and talking. Hide the bike or say it’s broken, no riding. They may argue… be prepared for that!

5. Ease back into your routine.
If you do have a head injury, the rest of your body might feel perfectly normal but healing takes a tremendous amount of energy. Any head injury is a big deal for ourselves to accept much less other people. Really listen to your body and get lots of rest. Stay away from screens including computers, TVs even your phone!

6. Listen to yourself, listen to your doctor.
Advocate for yourself if you’re not getting the answers you need. Head injuries are serious, and the effects build over time. Take care of yourself and your riding buddies! Encourage rest, not another run, after a big crash. The hardest thing is to not go hard!

7. Share your experience.
Have you had a head injury? What helped your recovery? Write them in the comments section below! 

For additional reading about head injuries, what to do and the different types of injuries, check out these articles.

“Impact Zone” by Dan Koeppel, appearing in Outside Magazine

“The Truth about Cycling and Brain Injuries” by Ian Dille, appearing in Bicycling Magazine

“Concussions in Cyclists for Team Managers and Coaches” by Anna K Abramson, MD, on the USA Cycling website

“Head Trauma: First Aid” on the Mayo Clinic’s website

Crash photo courtesy of Mike Albright.

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