Have a look at this question:

What do you do to cure road rash more quickly after a crash?

This question has had problems of its own, but the community should decide if we should give medical advice or not. This has obvious legal implications. Obviously, we need to tell people to see a doctor! (The poster here already has.)

Please, if you agree with someone's opinion, vote it up (or down), and also keep in mind that downvoting in meta doesn't cost anybody rep. Thanks!

Edit: I'd like to clarify that I don't want to exclude medical questions, but I'm concerned about liability issues. Questions about stretching or not, how to keep your fitness level up, and so on, seem quite on-topic to me. I'm concerned about explicitly medical issues -- stuff you really should ask a medical doctor about (or, even better, a sports doctor).

I also don't want to pick on this particular question -- it's a good example of the sort of medical questions we may get in the future.

Edit 2: I started a thread in Meta Stack Overflow about liability.


5 Answers 5


I like this question. Road rash is unfortunately an experience shared by most cyclists and it's a very frustrating thing to recover from. After you've gone to the doctor/hospital to get cleaned up & bandaged you're sent home and then you're on your own. So recovery tips would be helpful. It's also good that you made it community wiki since there's not likely any one right answer.

An off-topic example would be: "I crashed on the way home -- how do I clean the wounds and what bandages do I apply". Answer: get medical attention and close the question. Anything that deals with initial treatment of an injury (or even just diagnosis) should be treated this way, IMO. That also deals with the problem of liability.

  • Hmm. Interesting way to look at it. +1
    – Pekka
    Sep 15, 2010 at 5:30

Here's another one that's more serious than the road rash question: What are some good exercises to prevent knee pain?

Here you have a cyclist who injured his knee while riding. He had swelling and severe pain, and went so far as to take 6 months off from riding. There is no indication that he saw a physician. So now he's continuing to suffer pain and soreness, and asking for knee exercises because he's afraid that he'll hurt his knee again.

This strikes me as a red flag question. The poster in question accepted an answer that is essentially good; however, the answer primarily focuses on ITBS and stretches for that. If the poster does have ITBS, ok. But what if he actually has a lateral meniscus tear? Or one of a few other possibile injuries? The stretches and exercises recommended could make it worse, leading to surgery or maybe he already needs surgery. Or maybe the poster accepted the advice in the accepted answer to see a physician? Who knows?

There is a huge difference between the road rash question and the knee pain question. With the road rash, the cyclist received medical attention, had an accurate diagnosis and was seeking additional information/tips. The knee pain question is about an undiagnosed internal injury. So, are we to assume that this cyclist should accept the upvoted answer, head off to his gym, and exercise his injured knee?


I would vote off topic for this particular question, because the injuries sustained (as painful as I'm sure they are) are not specific to cycling. To people new to SOFU, that may sound a bit cruel, but Stack Overflow has managed to stay focused by mercilessly closing most off topic questions and I think that is a good tradition to continue.

Cycling specific medical questions - that are likely to be about specific practices, how to avoid long-term problems caused by cycling, what kind of protection to use against injuries and such - are probably on-topic.

I could live with disallowing them completely - much like almost every legal question on SO gets shot down saying "ask a lawyer" - but it would probably be a great loss for the site to do so.

  • 4
    Road rash is somewhat specific to cycling, I think. It's not a common injury in very many other activities, especially not to the same extent.
    – freiheit
    Sep 15, 2010 at 5:42

There is the obvious caveat: "we are not doctors, if you're looking for a professional opinion, go see a professional not a bunch of people spouting their opinions in their free time on the internet".

Is it possible to 'automatically' tie certain tags (medical, physio, injury, etc.) to display a waiver or link to some suitably worded disclaimer?

While the issue of medical liability is important, there are plenty of other questions which could render the answerer similarly - there are lots of questions asking about DIY repairs. If that repair goes wrong and a nut undoes itself, or a part shears or some other mechanical mishap occurs, then the resulting accident could cause huge personal damage. Yet we're not so obviously concerned about that liability?

In all cases, medical or DIY or whatever, there are plenty of high-voted answers that start with "ask a pro" ...


"I'm concerned about liability issues" - what kind of liability are you asking about: moral, or legal?

IMO, morally you should give the best advice you can (or, failing that, none): which will sometimes be 'see a doctor', and sometimes something else.

Given the question it would be a bit of a joke to be asking the community for legal advice, wouldn't it.

More recently, What foods do you consume after biking to retain energy? seemed to me too close to being a question which wanted a serious medical answer.

  • Mostly legal. In the US, people are pretty lawsuit-happy, unfortunately. It's not much of a stretch to imagine a well-meaning person giving medical advice to someone and getting sued for their trouble. Feb 21, 2011 at 18:28
  • 2
    @Neil - If you really want advice about legal liability, then I think you're supposed to ask a lweyer.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 21, 2011 at 19:43
  • That seems obvious to me. I've never understood why people go to the internet with these questions, but they do. However, Stack Exchange has a policy in place for this, so that'll have to be the final word. Feb 21, 2011 at 19:58
  • 1
    @Neil "I've never understood " -- I expect that some people are asking for [your] personal experience. For example it's not entirely unreasonable for me to ask you "which bike for me?" instead of asking a bike salesperson. OTOH I'd expect that it would be my responsibility and not yours, if I acted on such advice; and, a lot (although not all) of your advice to me will be to contact my LBS.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 21, 2011 at 22:51

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