What is the most common injury in the wilderness?
Enjoying the great outdoors is a wonderful way to spend a day (or even a week), but if you're not careful there are a number of ways you could be hurt. However, the most common wilderness injury is also one of the most common for any physical activity. [caption id="attachment_870" align="alignright" width="300"] Ankle sprains are the most common injury experienced by people in the wilderness.[/caption] Despite all the dangers of poisonous plants and animals, predatory animals and weather, the most common injury you are likely to sustain is a sprain. Ankle sprains are the most frequent, but injuries to wrists and knees are also common. While painful, sprains are not life threatening and usually do not cause permanent injury. Regardless of location, the treatment for sprains is the same. You can remember the protocol by the acronym RICE. First, you will need to REST the injured limb. The sprained area will likely swell and be painful to use anyway, but forcing yourself to use it through the pain can make the injury worse. Next you'll want to apply cold to the affected area (the I is “ICE”). If you've got a good first aid kit, it should include a cold compress. Usually, you'll need to break the internal contents of the pack to activate it. If you do not have a compress, ice or cold water can work. Avoid applying ice directly to the skin. Cold will help reduce the swelling and numb the pain. After icing, the next step is COMPRESSION. Once again, a good first aid kit should include an elastic bandage. Wrap it securely, but not so tight that it cuts off the circulation of blood to the limb. If you do not have an elastic bandage, strips of cloth can be cut from a T-shirt or blanket. In addition to the elastic wrap, you can also splint the injured area to help limit accidental movement. In the wilderness, a splint can be fashioned from two sturdy sticks. Green branches cut fresh are good because they are less likely to be contaminated with dirt and are less brittle than dried wood. The final step of treatment is ELEVATION. Keeping the injured limb above the heart will reduce swelling. In most cases this means keeping the injured person on their back with the injury resting on something soft. In addition to RICE, the injured person can be given over the counter pain relievers. Professional medical attention should be sought if the person cannot bear any weight on an injured leg, or if the joint feels unstable or completely numb. Get a professional to look at injuries that become discolored as this can indicate an infection.