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Avoiding Mechanical Injuries When Going On a Hike

Aug 23, 2021
By
Cardiologist, Gracie Square Hospital

                        How to Avoid Mechanical Injury While Hiking?

There is nothing more refreshing than a hike. You breathe fresh air, get in contact with nature and derive great health benefits from the exercise. When you are out there, however, the terrain might be a little harsher than you think. This could lead to mechanical injuries, but we can give you a few tips to avoid them.

What is a Mechanical Injury?

Before we go into the do’s and don’ts of the great outdoors, let’s establish what a mechanical injury is. This is a type of injury that results from the movement of your body, involving:

·      Joints and bones

·      Trauma

·      Hemorrhage

·      Penetrating wounds

When do Mechanical Injuries Occur

When you are out hiking, the risk of mechanical injuries increases when:

·      There are sudden weather changes that make the hike more challenging than you expected or a prepared for

·      You overestimate your ability, skill, or fitness level

·      On the other hand, you underestimate the terrain, weather, or the equipment you need

Why is Avoiding Mechanical Injury While Hiking so Important?

At this point you might be thinking, “so, what is the big deal if I overestimate my fitness level or don’t have the right equipment and I twist an ankle?” Well, you must factor in that hikes usually take place away from first responders and other medical attention that we are used to.

A twisted ankle can easily turn into an unexpected night over in the middle of the forest. If you were underestimating the equipment you needed you might not be ready to endure that. In such a situation you can end up exposing yourself to hypothermia or wild animals that you might not be able to fend off.

Tip #1: Always Make Sure you are Well Equipped

To avoid turning a fun day out in nature into a nightmare, you must make sure you are well equipped. From head to toe you must have the right kind of gear that will help you prevent mechanical injury. In your backpack you must always have emergency equipment that can help you if you or anyone who is with you has an accident.

Check that:

·      The boots you are wearing are appropriate and their soles are not worn out

·      Your sox and underwear are comfortable, and made out of suitable materials for the weather you will face

·      Upper layers allow for a good range of movement and protect you from the elements

Additionally, you should consider:

·      A backpack with essentials like high-density food, fire making gear, a knife, and a first aid kit

·      Trekking poles

·      Flashlight with new batteries

·      Communication equipment like a GPS tracker

Needless to say, check that all your equipment works before you leave. During the winter it is especially important that you pay attention to the gear you have and what you should carry. Having a shovel in areas where you can encounter heavy snowfall is important, for example.

Tip #2: Pay Attention to the Weather!

We kind of hinted at it, but now it is time to be blunt: the weather you expect to face and the sudden twists it might take are crucial components to avoiding mechanical injury during a hike. Make sure you consider the following:

·      Weather forecasts – always look beyond the time you plan to hike

·      Whether you will be facing changes in altitude that entail different climatic conditions

·      Visibility

·      Dampness

Paying attention to the weather will help you figure out the kind of equipment you need, especially with regards to the clothing items you should bring with you. It will also show you how to understand the changes in the terrain under different conditions.

Tip #3: Study the Terrain

As much as you might think that the terrain you hike in is a constant, weather can change its conditions radically. Imagine a rocky trail when it is sunny and dry, then try to imagine what happens to the same trail if it begins to rain. It will get slippery and if you haven’t considered that chances are you are not well equipped.

·      Make sure you have a plan for sudden changes in terrain conditions – this includes taking the right gear with you!

·      Consider your skill, ability, and fitness levels under varying terrain conditions

·      Understand the flora and the fauna of the place you are hiking in – potential threats manifest themselves in the terrain!

Tip #4: Make Sure People Know Where you are Headed

You can underestimate the terrain, take the wrong kind of equipment, get stuck with a sudden change in weather, or even overestimate your own abilities. But if everything goes wrong, and you suddenly twist an ankle, sprain a knee, or fracture your arm, at least someone knows where you are right?

·      Always tell at least two different people where you are headed

·      If possible, give them a map of your route or trail before you leave

·      Establish when you expect to finish your hike and make sure the two people who know where you are headed also know when you expect to come back

Tip #5: Slow Down!

When you plan your hiking itinerary, give yourself enough room to make a mistake or two in your navigation, or to stop and smell the wild flowers! Slowing down will help you think better and avoid mechanical injury because there are always unexpected obstacles on your way:

·      A tree fell down on your trail

·      There is a deep puddle on the ground

·      Boulders and even holes in the middle of the trail

All of those can lead to mechanical injury if you don’t take your time, analyze, and solve the obstacle appropriately.

Enjoy your Time in the Outdoors Injury Free!

Now that you know what to do to avoid mechanical injury while hiking, and you even know how to plan ahead for common emergencies, it is time to enjoy your time in the outdoors. One more thing before you head out: make sure you have enough water with you and even sunscreen if it is sunny outside!

 

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