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Is there a correct way to fall?(29 posts)

Is there a correct way to fall?LLSmith
Nov 5, 2001 3:36 AM
About five weeks ago I was just beginning my ride(starting my computer)and fell to my left side. I was going real slow and obviously not paying attention. While making somewhat of a tight u-turn to my left and heading back towards the main road I just simply fell over. Since I was not paying attention to the road im not sure if I was just going to slow for the turn or possibly bumped the tire with my shoe ...or what happend.As I was going down I put both hands to my left side.This was not something I planned to do.I suppose it was just a natural reaction to the situation.Yesterday was my first ride in five weeks and it was still not real comfortable on either of my wrist.Nothing broken, just severe joint compression.Is there a correct way to fall at low speeds? Not that I plan on doing this again, but should it happen I would like to be able to get up and ride away.
Yes, there isDuane Gran
Nov 5, 2001 5:53 AM
Having gained the title of "crash king" by my teammates, I can attest from experience that there is a right and wrong way to fall. Basically you want to assume the superman position, with your arms out in front of you if possible. Use your palms to break the fall and let the gloves rip apart if needed. Once you hit, roll if that is your inclination.

By all means, don't wrap your arms around your head or face. You will take the brunt of the landing on your shoulder. At this point you are more likely to break a collarbone. The method above doesn't reduce road rash, but it does minimize the chance of breaking a bone.
Nov 5, 2001 7:46 AM
Have you had a broken scaffoid? Cuz landing on your palms (hyperextending the wrist) in a fall is the best way to do that. Is this just a calculated "best bone to break" bet, or the lessor of several evils or something?

I broke my right scaffoid in 1999 and avoid landing hyperextended because a second break to that bone means surgury. I'm just curious why you choose to land that way.
Nov 5, 2001 8:09 AM
The x-rays showed none of the main bones around the wrist were broken. The doctor did say that it was possible that I had broken some of the smaller bones in the wrist. She said probably not. She also said it would take longer for the ligaments to heal than a broken bone.I just fell...while not paying attention to what I was doing. I was on the way down when I realized there was a problem.I dont know why I put my hands out, but I dont plan on doing it that way next time.
Scary!? Get a second opinion...Kristin
Nov 5, 2001 8:40 AM
Something in your discriptions gives me pause. There is no such thing as an unimportant bone. I could be wrong, but I believe that any broken wrist bone would need a cast. For instance, the scaffoid is is a small bone--about the size of an unshelled peanut--with a blood vessel running through it. It heals slowly and there can be complications. If I were youk, I'd want to be confidt that this one wasn't broken. If the scaffoid is more than 1mm displaced then a screw is required.

If the doctor didn't thoroughly verify that each bone was unbroken, then take the x-rays to an orhtapedic specialist for a second opinion. You don't want to mess around with your joints--they're expensive to replace! :-)

Good luck,
clarificationDuane Gran
Nov 5, 2001 9:40 AM
Good point. In truth no bone is fun to break, but the collarbone makes it painful to even breath, so I'm very mindful of falling on my side. I think the trick to falling is to accept the nature of the situation very quickly and slide. Palms outward seems to work well this way, however there is no guarantee that something won't break. In a crash we all choose the lesser of evils.
re: yes and no...Akirasho
Nov 5, 2001 5:53 AM
I'm by no means an expert, but it's been my experience that less damage is done during a fall of any type when the body is essentially limp, tucked and/or unfettered by outstretched limbs... (used to see tons of Colles' fractures of the wrist)

Aside from that, there are a huge amount of variables that go into a fall... especially on a bike (assuming road bikes for simplicity's sake). Despite knowing a correct way, I'd imagine that in most instances where you might wanna think about trying a technique, it's probably already too late (remember the Posties TTT crash... it is wicked quick even when replayed in slo mo).

Again, I'd try the limp noodle approach... and carry ID and insurance card.

We abide.

Remain In Light.
re: Keep you head up.dzrider
Nov 5, 2001 6:52 AM
I've had the good fortune to hit on a hip the last few falls. Mostly I go down thinking "hold your head up", cause even with a helmet it's the last thing I want to hit the pavement.
huh? what day is it?Dog
Nov 5, 2001 7:15 AM
Both times I crashed bad, I had no idea what happened. Ended up on the ground, smashed helmet, messed up shoulder (same one, twice), and all bloody.

The point is, it can happen so fast that you can't do anything about it. I couldn't even remember it, so I'd not know what to change next time. These were pretty wicked "over the bars" type crashes, though.

If you are doing one of those "lean it over and slide out" type crashes, then opt for the lean and slide vs. the over the bars. Anything is better than over the bars. Just watch some grand prix motorcycle racing. They slide off at 100 mph and jump back on (with lots of protection, yes). Sliding dissipates energy much better than a perpendicular interface between your head and the ground.

Focus on avoiding the falls in the first place. No wheel overlap, brake before turns, listen for sand under your tires, anticipate, and number one, just pay attention (my downfall twice).

huh? what happened?PsyDoc
Nov 5, 2001 12:00 PM
I second what Doug has to say. I would guess that the majority of crashes occur without prior knowledge that you are going to crash. Also, because crashes appear to happen rather quickly, in some instances, there really is no time to react. My crash was caused by a lab-mix (~70 lbs.) that sprinted out from behind a bush at the side of the road. There was no time to react. Perhaps if I had the reflexes of a ninja or something the result would have been different. The upside is that I have now joined the "broken collarbone club." The downside was the "discomfort" that came along with it as I could not walk for about 3 weeks as I fractured my pelvis as well.
Nov 5, 2001 7:41 AM
My one fall thus far taught me that if you feel youself getting unsteady (on sand, etc.), it is best to try to unclip immediately. I had a fairly low speed collision and while the fall wasn't too bad, I hurt my knee pretty badly because I was still clipped in. I doubt that I would have the presence of mind to unclip in a more sudden crash, but I would try.
never a problemDuane Gran
Nov 5, 2001 9:37 AM
In the crashes I've experienced, getting unclipped has never been a problem. In fact, usually I'm out of the clips and never remember coming off the pedals. A couple of times I've landed on my feet and I still don't recall clipping out. I believe in the heat of the moment the adrenaline gives you a quick pull that releases your feet. At any rate, I think one shouldn't be worried about being "stuck" in the cleats during a crash.

As for the plan to unclip in unsteady circumstances, I personally wouldn't do that. When the terrain or situation is sketchy I think it would be better to maintain course and utilize the position and form that you use 99% of the time. Unless you ride unclipped frequently enough, this could actually contribute to instability or create a self fulfilling prophesy. In otherwords, thinking "I'm gonna fall" is a sure way to contribute to falling.
Nov 5, 2001 2:34 PM
Your advice makes some sense. Of course, it is from the perspective of someone who hasn't hyperextended his knee while falling and mine is from the opposite perspective. Perhaps a cleat not releasing isn't too common, but given that pedals have only one way to release (with a few exceptions), I am surprised it isn't more of a problem.
ACK!!! Don't Unclip!jtolleson
Nov 5, 2001 3:44 PM
OK, that's overstated. If you are tipping over in a track stand, or in sand as you described, unclip. Why not.

But you didn't hurt your need because you failed to unclip; you hurt your knee because you kneed out into the pavement. The tuck and roll onto the hip is the safest and least injurious way of hitting the pavement, though it is really just good for sideways falls (missing the lip on a curb, going down in gravel around a turn).

Having spent 40 weeks in the last 3 1/2 years on crutches because I unclipped in a sudden crash, I've definitely formed opinions.

Sticking ANY appendage groundward while falling is risky. For my, I shattered everything below the ankle. For a friend, it was BOTH wrists.

There's no great way to fall, but unclipping is NOT necessarily a solution. If you can have the presence of mind to ride the bike down onto hip/shoulder, you'll get road rash but fewer broken bones.

As a practical matter, reflexes take over. Stiff legging it (or stiff-arming it) into the pavement on the way down may just always be a fact of cycling, but it is no solution.
Not QuiteDCP
Nov 5, 2001 8:41 PM
I hyperextended my left knee in a fall to the right. It wasn't the impact in my case, but your point of not sticking a limb out and exposing it to impact damage is well taken. Really hard to do, no doubt, but not impossible. A friend of mine claimed he wasn't badly injured when he hit a car which ran a red light because his mind defaulted to his paratrooper training. Relax, protect your head and limbs, and roll, which is what you are saying.
Hope not to repeat my two falls...dmoller
Nov 5, 2001 7:41 AM
which resulted in a broken right wrist after low/no speed crashes. Basically unclipped the left shoe at an intersection, got my weight to the right of vertical and fell over to the right before unclipping the right shoe. Absorbed some of the fall with the right thigh/hip, but put the right hand down to break my fall and landed on the pad on my palm at the base of my thumb. Broken navicular bone in mid-August, cast three weeks. Plan on unclipping both shoes from now on, but in case there is a next time and if I think quickly enough, I think I might opt for the shoulder impact.
Hmmm, let's ask Elefantino what not to do. . . (nm)js5280
Nov 5, 2001 8:01 AM
Try not to fall on your head. It's expensive.Elefantino
Nov 5, 2001 8:02 AM
Not only are there the medical bills — a week in intensive care, surgery, trauma teams, gallons of morphine — but when you recover, you suddenly have this urge to buy things for the newly-repaired bike that you can't ride until January: new wheels, new tires, new saddle, new bar tape, new seat bag, three new jerseys, three new bibs, one new pair of shorts, some new socks ...

64 days. And counting.
Try not to fall on your head. It's expensive.morey
Nov 5, 2001 8:07 AM
Man you are really going to be one decked out dude on your first ride. You might weigh too much just from the new clothes! I imagine you cannot wait, I hope its not too cold!
Maintain Upper Body Strengthjagiger
Nov 5, 2001 8:13 AM
I had several falls while learning how to unclip with my new bike. There were nothing big, just road rash, but I'd have to believe that having good upper body helps you to better absorb impact with hands, shoulders... also good for riding hills & maintaining good riding form.
Slow speed fallsBrooks
Nov 5, 2001 8:36 AM
Those inattentive or unclipped-on-one-side-but-fell-to-the-other kinds of falls are better if you take the impact with your hip or butt. Turning your body so that both hands take the impact is a way to break small bones in the wrist (I've torn ligaments in the wrist in a fall but not from the bike). You've got a lot of padding in the hip area (some of us have more than others!) and much stronger bones. The other advantage is that you can roll across your back/shoulders after the initial impact to dissipate the energy and keep your bike in the air to protect the fantastic paint job on it ;-0

Faster crashes or over-the-bars you generally have no time to think or react. Try not to land on your head.

Rubber side down.
re: Is there a correct way to fall?DINOSAUR
Nov 5, 2001 9:34 AM
Yes there is a correct way to fall. There are also two types of crashes:

Low speed tumbles when you have time to think of how you are going to catch yourself.

And high speed crashes as when you take a hand off your bars to adjust you riding glasses and the next thing you know you are laying in a heap in the middle of the road. If you are lucky someone will have been riding behind you and piece back together what went wrong.

Most of my tumbles, serious and non-serious have occurred while cornering on descents. Now I am a lot more careful and aware of what can happen. It's common to place you hands out in order to brace yourself for impact, that is the purpose of riding with gloves.

I'd say if you walked away intact, you did everything right. If you were injured and forced to take time off of your bike then it's time to evaluate your riding skills.

I know I've learned to keep both hands on my bars and watch the road in front of me while descending. The computer can be distracting. Best to wait until after the descent and you can see what your top speed was.

And sad but true: We all go down sooner or later. Sometimes "later" can be more serious as you are used to getting away with more risks.

Ride so you can ride tomorrow. My favorite part of the ride is when I unclip at the bottom of my driveway and know I've made it back home in one piece and can ride again another day.....
from martial arts classes, I learned.....maximum15
Nov 5, 2001 9:40 AM
the four b's. Bite, bend, breathe, breakfall. Bite down with your teeth so that you don't bite your tounge off. Bend your chin to your chest so the back of your head doesn't splatter. Breathe out -- hard to knock the breath out of a person with no breath in them. Breakfall is the fourth b and is the tough part but basically involves hitting the ground with your forearm(s) at the moment of impact. This takes a lot of practice, but I can attest it works for falls as high as 6 or 7 feet. You can absorb about 80% of the energy of the fall with this method when done correctly. This part isn't something you are likely to do without a lot of practice which you should obtain from a licensed martial arts instructor. The key point is always land on the forearms, never the palms. This goes for side, back, and forward falls. (Look left or right on forward falls so the nose doesn't get smashed).
Rise and WalkKristin
Nov 5, 2001 10:12 AM
Have you read this book? It was written by former NY Jets lineman, Jason Byrd, after his spinal injury in '92. In the book, Byrd discusses how football players are taught to tilt their chin back just before impact (with another human being) to elongate the spin. Somehow this is suposed to protect it from fracture. He claims his injury occured because, in a last second reaction, he tucked his chin instead of doing what he had been taught. I'm just wondering which method would be more practicle for cycling crashes. Tucking the chin or tilting your head back slightly?

I think that landing on forearms makes alot of sense and I'm going to keep that in mind. They seem very durable.
I have never yet failed...Bearbate
Nov 5, 2001 10:13 AM
To fall correctly. Never got stuck halfway to the road, or wedged in the frame.

At anything other than stationary, you are lucky if you know what the hell is going on before you are in a heap on the ground wondering what the hell is going on.

Don't worry. If you know what to do, you'll only upset yourself that you didn't have time to do it when you hit that hole/car/rider/dog/asteroid at 18mph and the whole world went grey/blue/grey/blue whump!...
Nov 5, 2001 11:04 AM
Actually learning better slow speed manauvering skills will help lots. In motorcycle safety courses they spend a lot of time manauvering very slowly - the idea is that any fool can ride fast, but it takes real skill to ride slowly. It really builds skills and awareness. My philosophy for biking and skiing is to crash with enough speed that cleats/bindings release and you come clear of the bike (and trees), then tuck and roll. Slow falls can really mess you up b/c you try to catch yourself and you end up damaging something. Maybe you should practice some falls on grass - when you learn to parachute one of the first things you learn is how to fall correctly - they're called PLFs (parachute landing falls) and there is a right and a wrong way to do it. You want to absorb the energy of the fall over as much of your body (but not the head) as possible over as long a time frame as possible. Sticking an arm out is usually a bad idea, but it's very much human nature. Surfing teaches you to roll with it and keep arms, legs and head in. Always ride with a helmet - unless you crash into something horizantally it's the height not the horizontal velocity that gets you in the vertical (it's pure physics).
Nov 5, 2001 12:43 PM
In my college days, the team used to have an organized 'bumper bikes' session a few times every Spring. The game was ridden on a grassy field at low speed, and the point was to not let your feet touch the ground, while simultaniously trying to get other people to have to put their feet down. It was a good learning experience, a bit of fun, and didn't even cause that much damage...
Im my experiencecioccman
Nov 5, 2001 1:21 PM
there are two types of road cycling falls that I've been involved with. Sideways and over the bars. They're are pretty well different. I've been pretty lucky with them as opposed to other competition related injuries that have put me in traction racks and left me with numerous surgeries, pins, screws, rods, scars, etc.

First and foremost, anything to save the head and face. Secondly I try to save joint breaks. A bone break right at your elbow or knee or any joint is signficantly worse in my opinion than another. Good luck. It is hard to get on the horse and ride as hard as before. I'm going through the same thing right now. It'll take me some time to get back to the place I was before.
Through yourself at the ground, but miss.Largo
Nov 5, 2001 2:52 PM
Just like in Hitch hikers.