Protecting Legs and Feet When Motorcycle Riding is Critical, But Too Often Ignored Surgical Advances Can Save Limbs, but Simple Preventive Steps to Protect Vulnerable Body Parts is Key
TARRYTOWN, N.Y., April 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Motorcycle ridership for both recreation and commuting has increased dramatically over the past couple of decades, bringing a corresponding upswing in accidents and injuries. Motorcycle-related injuries often involve the body's lower extremities, particularly the legs and feet, which are common and vulnerable points of impact.
An estimated 1,222,000 people were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for non-fatal motorcycle-related injuries between 2001 and 2008; 30 percent of these injuries affected the leg and foot. Lower extremity injuries are most often nonfatal, but can lead to lengthy and costly medical treatment and permanent disability.
"Motorcyclists in a single vehicle crash often skid or slam into a roadside guardrail with a direct leg impact that shatters bones, while collisions with other vehicles can throw a rider to the ground with the motorcycle crushing their leg," said R. Michael Koch, M.D., assistant professor of Surgery at New York Medical College, Chief of the Microsurgery and Replantation service at the Westchester Medical Center, and a surgeon with the New York Group for Plastic Surgery. "Helmets are critical to protect riders' heads, but legs and feet are also extremely vulnerable and require protective clothing to help reduce the severity of injury in an accident."
Advances in microsurgery enable surgeons to repair legs and feet injured in motorcycle accidents that would otherwise require amputation. Motorcycle rider April Curry experienced this situation when a car hit her sidelong on a local highway, sending her flying 15 feet through the air to land on a nearby lawn with a severely injured lower leg and foot. The surgical team was able to save her leg and foot: orthopedic surgeons replaced her shattered bones with hardware and Dr. Koch's team used a complex microsurgical procedure to transfer muscle, fat, skin and even an arterial blood supply from healthy areas of her body to rebuild and repair the injured limb.
"I underwent months of pain and hospitalizations, but I chose to try microsurgery because I wanted a chance at keeping my leg," said April. "I was incredibly fortunate that I not only have my leg but I'm walking again. I was wearing protective clothing, including long pants and boots, at the time of my motorcycle accident, so I hate to imagine an even worse outcome if my legs and feet weren't protected at all."
"The public health message that motorcyclists should wear helmets to protect against head injury is clearly out there, although it cannot be said often enough," said Dr. Koch. "But there is much less awareness for the need to wear long pants and knee-high boots that are durable enough to offer protection to bones and soft tissue like skin and muscle in a motorcycle accident. It's just as important for a passenger to be wearing the same protective gear as the motorcycle driver, since both are very exposed to the surrounding environment."
Dr. Koch offers tips to help motorcycle riders protect themselves on the road:
- Wear long pants as the most effective way to shield legs, which are vulnerable in a motorcycle collision. Abrasion-resistant materials like leather or ballistic nylon are most effective. While denim is preferable to no coverage, the fabric is easily ripped and can actually get lodged in a wound.
- Wear high, sturdy motorcycle boots to support ankles and give extra protection to your lower leg and foot.
- Be sure your passenger is as well protected as you are with a helmet that meets safety standards, long pants and boots. Both driver and passenger should also wear a jacket made of leather or other protective fabric. Wearing just shorts, a tank top and sandals or sneakers is not safe for anyone on a motorcycle!
- Many motorcycle enthusiasts prefer to wear black clothes, but black or camouflaged tones can make you much less visible to other drivers on the road. If you wear these colors, use a reflector strip to make yourself more noticeable.
- Don't drink alcohol before or while riding a motorcycle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2011, 29% of motorcycle drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol level of .08 or above, a rate higher than for either passenger cars or trucks. As the driver of the most vulnerable vehicle on the road, a motorcyclist needs to keep his or her senses clear and alert to drive defensively.
- Treatment at a medical center that has significant experience with severe motorcycle injuries is critical to better outcomes. A patient or their family should feel comfortable asking the surgeons how many of these types of injuries they treat annually — if the answer is in the single digits, ask to be transferred!
About the New York Group for Plastic Surgery
The New York Group for Plastic Surgery (NYGPS) is comprised of highly trained plastic surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). The surgeons are recognized for their specialized medical and cosmetic surgical skills and personalized patient care.
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SOURCE New York Group for Plastic Surgery