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Backcountry Injuries

How and why we get hurt



Adventure sports have drastically risen in popularity in recent years and as a result, so have the number of injuries reported. And while there has been an increase in published research of backcountry injuries, there is still a lack of statistical research or an overall database of these incidents, making evaluation of injury rates a bit difficult.


A study published in the OfficialJournal of the Wilderness Medical Society recorded injuries that occurred in Yellowstone National Park over the course of a year. They concluded that “ Hiking and walking accounted for 38.0% of the injuries,” and that “77.4% of all injuries sustained resulted in soft tissue injuries, which include sprains, strains, abrasions, and lacerations, and only 8.8% were fractures or dislocations.”


In general, common injuries include dehydration, orthopedic trauma, gastro-intestinal infections and skin irritations, such as sunburn or insect bites. A small percentage of backcountry travelers present with more serious injuries that require immediate evacuation such as head trauma or acute mountain sickness.


The best prevention of injury is through education. You don’t need to be an expert at wilderness first aid to have an injury-free backcountry adventure, but studying up on basic first aid is wise. You should research what gear you need before you take off on your adventure. Carry and use hand sanitizer often. Stay hydrated. Wear properly fitting shoes. Bring layers. Pack a first aid kit. And use good judgment. The easiest injuries to treat are the ones that don’t occur!

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