October 1, 2023

Occasionally, we are contacted by readers who want to contribute something of interest.   Please read below a message about a mountain biking accident from one of our readers.

Hello.  I want to tell you about an incident where I most likely experienced some form of brain injury.  At the time, I didn’t know what I was experiencing,  Since I had some unusual symptoms that I had never experienced before, I decided to do some research and try to understand what happened.   While researching, I stumbled upon your site and content about traumatic brain injury.

The Accident

On September 4, 2023, I  took my mountain bike to a local trail system.   This is something I do frequently and I know the trails well.  The riding is a combination of challenging climbs and fast flowy areas.  If you are unfamiliar with mountain biking, let me explain how this goes.  You usually spend part of your time climbing hills.  Once you get to the top, you get a fast and fun ride downhill and test your skills on different challenging turns and features.

The local trails that I often visit are loops.  The trails are only wide enough for a single bike. Therefore, they are called “single-track” trails.   It is common for single-track trails to alternate directions from day to day.  The trails I was riding on have some narrow passages, and there are many places where leaving the trail can be hazardous.  There are trees everywhere, steep embankments on one side or the other, creeks, rocks, roots, ruts, humps, you name it and it’s there.

On this particular day, I had ridden about 15 miles.  It was a great day.  Lots of other mountain bikers were on the trails, and a few hikers too.  I was almost done with the ride for the day and was a little tired.   But, I was on the last downhill section, which was flowy and fast.  I was traveling pretty fast when I came around a bend and a hiker was on the trail.  That’s not unusual, but in this case, he had nowhere to go.  On one side of the trail was a steep hill with thick brush; on the other side, there was a steep slope down to a creek and remnants of a fallen tree that had been cut up to get it off the trail.

As I rounded the bend, I saw him, and he saw me.  He tried to get to one side of the trail quickly.  And I braked as quickly as possible.  I braked so hard with the front and rear brakes that my rear tire was off the ground.  I had to “feather my front brake” to avoid completely flipping over the front of the bike.  Unfortunately, there was not enough room to stop before colliding with the hiker.  Since the hiker moved as far to the right side of the trail as possible, I skidded to the left and ran off the embankment.  As I left the trail with my rear tire off the ground, my front wheel hit a log with the bike in a near vertical orientation.  I flipped over the handlebars and into several more logs from the downed tree.

The hiker was stunned, and I lay head-down in a pile of logs and brush.  He shouted down the hill, “Are you ok?”.  I tried to answer but could barely talk as I had trouble breathing.  I was dizzy and could only see bright patch images and no detail.   After a minute or two, I could get myself into a sitting position.   I was then able to talk.  By this time, a few other mountain bikers had come down the trail and stopped to help.   The hiker stood by, concerned, and wanted to see that I was okay.

After a few minutes, I was breathing normally and sitting upright.  My left arm and left side of my torso were scraped and bruised badly.  Everyone was discussing calling 911, but I insisted that I was okay and would be up in a few minutes.  The biggest problem at this time was the dizziness and loss of vision.  But I could feel myself gradually recovering.   Some other bikers had pulled my bike back onto the trail and checked it out.  Fortunately, it was not seriously damaged and was still ridable.

Eventually, I got back on my feet.  And then got back on the bike, rode it out of the woods and onto a dirt road, and eventually made the 4-mile ride home.   The dizziness and vision problems were gone when I got to the dirt road.   When I got home with no issues and cleaned up my cuts and bruises. There was still intense pain in my left side, which I self-diagnosed as cracked or bruised ribs.    I wondered if I should go to a hospital and get that checked out, but I opted to avoid spending the day in the emergency room to have them prescribe some ibuprofen and send me a bill for a few hundred dollars.

The rib pain improved over the next few days.  Having had many mountain biking accidents, scrapes, cuts, and bruises, but never dizziness or vision issues.  I wanted to research this and see what might have caused it.  I suspected some concussion or head injury but didn’t know if my head hit anything.  After examining the helmet carefully and finding no damage or signs of impact.   After thinking more about the vision problem, I concluded that my pupils were dilated.   I could clearly remember that my vision was like a camera that had the exposure set too high, and everything was washed out.



Researching dilated pupils after an accident and found that almost every source said that could be a symptom of a serious head injury, and medical attention should be sought immediately.   I should have been evaluated immediately after the accident.  Even though my head may not have been impacted directly, my body, including my head, was subjected to violent motion, which can cause the brain to impact the inside of the skull.


I likely had a concussion but was too stubborn to go to the hospital.  Fortunately, my injury was relatively mild, and as far as I know, there are no lasting effects.   I learned that a direct impact on the head is unnecessary to cause a concussion.   Also, since I had an issue with the ribs, I took it very easy for the next few days, which is recommended for mild concussions.   The bottom line is that I was very lucky not to have had a more serious injury, and not seeing a doctor could have been disastrous if the injury had been a little more serious.  And the final lesson is always to wear a good helmet!


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