How to Treat Road Rash

First Aid for Abrasions and Other Burn Injuries From Sliding Falls

Girl with knee abrasions. Westend61 / Getty Images

When inline skaters occasionally fall and find themselves sliding across cement, asphalt or gravel, this type of fall often creates invasive abrasions that we call “road rash” or road burn. It is a good idea to know how to recognize and treat these abrasives injuries because even though road rash is not serious, if not treated promptly and properly, it is a burn-type injury that can lead to serious infections if ignored.

Factors That Affect Severity

These abrasions that we call road rash are really friction burns. And they can range from fairly mild like the one shown to a very severe abrasion. These are the factors that affect the severity of the road rash:

  • Impact speed –– Fast skating causes deeper abrasion wounds.
  • Sliding distance –– Sliding generates more road rash than a tumble or crash.
  • Surface texture –– Rougher roads create more abrasion than smooth surfaces.
  • Surface condition –– Surface debris like rocks, glass or sticks will cause additional damage.

Here's How

  1. Evaluate the Abrasion

    The (the epidermis) provides protection to muscles and organs, and (the dermis) provides support and flexibility to the skin. Road rash abrasions remove these important layers of skin. After an abrasive inline skating fall, take time to assess your injury. A minor abrasion will only affect the surface layer of skin, will show minimal abrasion and no debris will be embedded in the skin. If a fall is anything more than minor, get professional medical treatment immediately. Some of the symptoms could include pain and heavy bleeding.
  2. Clean and Irrigate the Abrasion

    Remove any fragments of clothing, dirt, debris, gravel and dead tissue from the wound and surrounding areas. It is best to have a medical professional examine and clean the wound. There are many wound irrigation solutions, but clean, cool tap or bottled water can be used for immediate treatment. A few moments under a cold faucet can also irrigate, reduce inflammation and numb the area around the wound so it can be cleaned more effectively. Use sterile gauze and carefully wipe debris away. Be careful not to cause any additional injury to the skin. Use a fresh gauze to dry the wound area.
  1. Apply Ointment & Sterile Dressings

    Use a topical wound treatment, such as Neosporin, to prevent infection, stop bacteria from growing and reduce pain. Apply a generous amount to prevent this first dressing from sticking to the wound. Carefully cover the area with a sterile gauze dressing that is bigger than the abrasion. This temporary dressing should only remain in place until you get to your urgent care facility, the doctor’s office or a hospital.
  2. Keep the Abrasion Clean

    Subsequent dressing changes and treatment should be done according to your medical professional’s recommendations.


  1. Watch for any increase in pain, swelling or red marks.
  2. If any signs of infection appear, immediately seek additional professional medical help.
  3. Consider your immunization history. If tetanus shots are not up to date, get one right away.
  4. Prevention is the best cure. Wear your protective gear and choose clothing that will protect exposed areas of skin while still allowing comfort and movement.

What You Need

  • Wound irrigation solution, clean tap water or bottled water
  • Sterile gauze
  • Topical wound ointment