Rider Down (but not out): DH MTB Crash

After 17 years of riding, it finally happened.  On a trail I had ridden before, at Thunder Mountain Bike Park, I crashed off a small jump and injured myself.  Badly.

Thank God for full face helmets.  Thank God it wasn’t worse.

It was the first day of my vacation–after a year of no vacations, and the weather was a perfect 80 degrees, dry, not a cloud in the sky.  I took my son for a day of mother-son fun before he headed off to camp for 2 weeks.  We took a run together and then he joined his lesson, and I was on my own for a couple of hours.

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My son is happy the helmet doesn’t mess up his hair too much, because he has discovered girls, and is clearly cooler than everyone in the world.

A little foreshadowing:  this vacation time was largely unplanned.  I had no solid plan for this week, other than a ton of cycling.  I made the decision to book a bike and lesson for my son just a couple days before–but….I had some hesitation.  I feared he would get hurt (not me), and felt unsure and uncommitted about even going, even though I love downhilling and bought my new full suspension mountain bike with Thunder Mountain in mind.  I felt a bit displaced and distracted, almost outside of myself mentally on this trip (and in all things lately).  Almost like I was only half there.

Fast forward, my first run solo and I hit the trails. I rode trails I had in the past, “blue squares,” nothing crazy.  I usually stop and regroup with whomever I’m riding with, but this wasn’t necessary being alone….and my impatient nature urged me to keep on.  I hit Chin Strap, a moderate jump trail–which meant you could jump or just pop gently over the feature.  I’m more of a popper than jumper, but I can deal with a bit of air. I’m not certain what happened, I think my speed was greater than I realized and a jump came on faster than expected.  And I bit it.  I remember seeing my entire bike over my head, I think I’d hit the ground at that point.

I knew immediately I was done for the day but unsure of how done.  I scampered off the trail and pulled my bike off too, as another rider soared past me.  I was hurt, a little confused, I hadn’t yet taken stock of my injuries but knew I had to get off that trail before I caused another crash.  I managed to get back on the bike and roll down to where the trail intersected an access road. I found a safe place and sat down to figure out how hurt I was.

My shoulder had taken the brunt of the fall and all I knew was it hurt and wasn’t working right, and I didn’t think it was a good idea to test it much.  I felt a grinding and popping at the tip of my shoulder, which I later learned was my broken bones moving around.

A man on an ATV riding up the access road stopped and asked if I was ok.  I answered honestly.  “I’m not sure yet.”  I asked how tough the rest of the trail was, he advised I take the access road down.  “Will it bring me to the lodge?”  Yes.  I decided for the path of least resistance.

I collected myself and started walking my bike down the mountain.  I felt nauseous. Bike patrol stopped me and asked if I had gone down on Gronk (my favorite trail there).  Nope, that wasn’t me.  They offered to call a buggy to get me down.  I have skied the mountain enough to know I could be at the lodge in 5 minutes if I just kept going.  Plus I’m stubborn as hell.  “Nope, I’m good.”  I kept heading down the rocky, washed out access road, walking my bike.  The nausea persisted, but I felt capable to get myself off the mountain under my own power.  I started to feel pain in my chest while breathing.

I got to the car and was exhausted.  I texted my gf.  My son had another 45 minutes to his lesson.  My shoulder was a mess.  I managed to load my bike into my car with one arm.  I waited for his lesson to wrap up, collected him, and then drove myself a hour home to our local hospital’s ER.

X-rays, a quick exam, and a Motrin and I was sent home with a sling and diagnosis: Comminuted displaced distal right clavicle fracture, AC separation, and non-displaced right fourth rib fracture.  See the orthopedic folks on Monday to assess if surgery is needed.  The nausea was from the pain of the trauma, not a head injury.  That was good news. I knew I was badly hurt, but never in severe pain, which may have been masked by adrenaline. Apparently my pulse and blood pressure was uncharacteristically high at the hospital.

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My clavicle. The top bone is supposed to be one piece. There is at least one visible bone fragment under the main fracture.

UPDATE:  Surgery is not needed.* I’m staying in the sling, keeping the joint immobile.  The broken rib hurts the most.  I have a bunch of other abrasions, bumps and bruises that have blossomed in the 2 days since the accident. I have to sleep upright.  I can’t drive.  I can’t put my sling on myself.  I can get MOST of my clothing on myself.  I expect most of this to get better soon.

(*at this time.  Reassessment in 4 weeks).

I am so grateful that this wasn’t much worse, as it easily could have been.  I love cycling but it’s got it’s dangers, even for experienced riders.

So I’m off the bike for a while. More to come with thoughts of this unplanned break, and updates of my progress.  Thanks for reading, and always wear a helmet!



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About Karen

Mid-life female amateur athlete focused on cyclocross, mountain biking, and road cycling.

3 responses to “Rider Down (but not out): DH MTB Crash”

  1. Laura says :

    GIRL. So glad you’re OK.

  2. bgddyjim says :

    Heal fast, Karen. Sorry for your fortune.

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  1. Bike Accident Recovery Update: Day 15 | Sip, clip, and go! - July 22, 2018

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