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Why I Don’t Want Bikers As Patients

One of my favorite moments as a physical therapist came in the 1980s. I was sitting at a table in our clinic opposite three men – all with multiple lower-extremity injuries that had been surgically repaired. Suddenly it occurred to me that each of these men had become my patient as the result of a motorcycle accident. When I voiced this fact, instantly it seemed as if the men had known each other their whole lives. They started laughing, discussing their bikes, and swapping crash stories. And for the remainder of their treatment, they all scheduled their appointments so they could attend physical therapy at the same time.

You may have heard that the number of motorcycle deaths in Idaho is up this year – more than double that of 2011 (see the Idaho Press-Tribune story here). Over the years, I’ve treated many, many bikers as the result of crashes, and unfortunately, those were the lucky ones. As I often say not only to motorcyclists, but bicyclists, runners, and other pedestrians – when it comes to a collision with a car, it doesn’t matter who has the right of way. The car will always win.

Did you know it’s NOT REQUIRED BY LAW that you wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle? This fact blows my mind, but it’s true. With all due respect to the heart and lungs, your head is the most valuable (and in my opinion, fragile) part of your body. Everything that you do is because of your brain, and while bruises will heal and broken bones will mend, brain injuries are a much dicier deal. So here’s Rule #1 in my very own Guide To Staying Alive On A Motorcycle: Wear a helmet. In fact, wear all the protective gear you can find (such as boots, jackets, gloves, etc.). Don’t worry about your hair. Don’t try to be macho. Wear a helmet and live to ride another day.

Rule #2 in my Guide To Staying Alive On A Motorcycle: Follow the rules of the road and then some. Face it, drivers can be careless, tired, distracted, hurried, and all of the above. So always use your turn signal, don’t speed, don’t tailgate, don’t cut into traffic – basically don’t do anything that would increase your risk in traffic. And also don’t forget to pay attention to your surroundings even when there aren’t any cars around. According to the Idaho Press-Tribune, in at least 60% of motorcycle crashes, there is no other driver involved.

Here’s the thing – every biker I’ve ever met has been a really great person. So I don’t want you guys to get injured in an accident and have to come see me. I like you too much for that. Stay safe and stay out of my clinic. Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

For more information on motorcycle safety, visit:
itd.idaho.gov
ntsb.gov
idahostar.org

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