Grant Incles, a specialist personal injury solicitor and Partner at law firm Leigh Day, explores the growth in popularity of cycling and how even after a client has suffered horrendous injuries following an accident, they are often keen to get back in the saddle to aid their recovery.
People on bicycles are about so much more than carbon and lycra, and finally it seems we in the UK are changing the way we view our transport systems to embrace active travel and all of the many benefits that provides.
Having said that, sports cycling is an important part of that transformation and arguably kickstarted the current sea-change with success at the Olympics and Tour De France in 2012. British Cycling boasts over 150,000 members and a very large proportion of those are ‘racing’ memberships. Whether you are elite level on the burgeoning women’s professional scene or happy MAMIL batting away the week’s stress on a Sunday morning, riding a bike for fitness and competing with your mates is important to a significant part of our population.
Whilst I refuse to acknowledge that cycling in and of itself is dangerous, we cannot escape the fact that people get hurt whilst riding, whether because of negligent motorists or gaping holes in the tarmac. In my role as a serious injury lawyer with specialism in cycling incidents I see the result of the small but nevertheless horrifying percentage of those cases which result in life-changing injuries. Traumatic brain injury of varying degree is common in this cohort and notably diffuse axonal injury, where the insult to the brain largely occurs as a result of it being thrown around inside the skull and against which a bicycle helmet is capable of providing very little protection.
This sort of injury can affect people in so many ways but a common theme, regardless of the level of pre-injury ability, is that my clients want to get back on the bike. Being fit and active was part of their identity before their life was changed and they want it to be part of their identity in their new reality. It is therefore incredibly important for their adjustment that they are assisted optimally in that endeavour. The reality though is there will be physical and psychological scars which impede or even prevent them from returning to their chosen pre-incident activity.
By far and away the best way to address this is by working closely with clinicians such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and personal trainers at the earliest possible stage to put together a targeted regime that engages the client and gets them where they need to be in order to feel they have that quality of life again.
Clearly, this involves far more than simply buying a bike and taking it for a ride. The advent of indoor virtual cycling training and myriad forms of fitness equipment which measure performance and protect against overtraining or causing other injuries can give people in this situation a new lease of life. These were not by and large gym-goers pre-injury, so they should not be required to be so because of the incident. Thankfully, most of the time for most people, indoor training as part of overall rehabilitation goals can be achieved in their own homes.
Rarely, the current home may have space to provide a gym, therapy and equipment room to accomplish the client’s goals. Most of the time though that is not possible and early, thoughtful interaction between the clinicians, lawyers and specialists inaccommodation for injured people is a crucial part of the equation. Providing the appropriate space and environment within which to launch this return to meaningful activity cannot be underestimated. A home, even if it is to be temporary, needs to be found, assessed and adapted at the outset. It is no mean feat and specialist advice from an organisation like France & Associates is worth its weight in Olympic Gold Medals.
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