Medical – How To Handle A Broken Leg On The Trails

Accidents happen and if you or your riding partner breaks their leg on a ride out it’s worth knowing what the best course of action is. Doc Edwards talks us through what to do

As adventurer riding is inherently dangerous, injuries are bound to occur. ­ The best thing we can do to avoid injury is to work on prevention. A rider must be able to know what is ahead through the dust and make accurate judgements, knowing when to ride a section conservatively or push forward is the real strategy to the Dakar rally or any adventure ride.

Imagine that you are riding up to the scene of a motorcycle accident on the trail. As with any accident, stop behind the rider, blocking the trail so others may know to stop and help. Take off your helmet, jacket and gloves. You notice the fallen rider holding his leg and moaning in pain. First, observe the fallen rider and ask if he or she is alright. If you have a response, you know three essential things immediately: ­ The rider has A – an airway, B – is breathing, and C – has a pulse and adequate blood pressure. ­ These are called the ABCs of emergency care.

Upon further inspection you can see that the leg is visibly deformed and the thigh is swollen. ­ is person likely has a broken leg. Assuming that you have limited medical experience, what should you do?

Proper management for a broken leg on the trail can be a stressful situation, but easily managed if some basic steps are taken. Always call for emergency aid if possible and know the number depending in which country you are riding (UK 999, USA 911, France 15).

Remove or cut away any clothing around the fracture site. Stop the bleeding if necessary by applying fi rm pressure with any towel, shirt, rag you have available until the bleeding stops. If the bone is protruding from the skin, (take a deep breath) cover it, don’t touch it or attempt to twist it back in place. Very strong muscles hold a broken thigh bone in place making it difficult to provide traction. You can make an improvised splint using natural resources.

Get two forked branches or saplings at least five centimetres in diameter. Measure one from the patients armpit to 20 centimetres past the fracture site. Measure the another from the groin to 20 centimetres past the fracture site. Then place an appropriate sized piece of wood under the two ends of the splints and attach them using string or tape. Other items that could be used as splint are rolled up newspaper, a fender, or motorcycle seat.

Reduce the swelling and prevent further injury. If available, place an ice pack or cold compress. Elevate the injured leg if possible. Manage the pain and inflammation by giving ibuprofen or paracetamol. Wait for medical help to arrive, but sometimes you have to be creative to get a person to safety.

Reassurance is very important for the mental well being of the patient. Keeping a positive attitude and reinforcing that ‘it’s never as bad as it seems’ will get you through many tough situations.