Injuries resulting from hiking and climbing are common in northern Utah, thanks to the rich and varied natural amenities our state has to offer. Whether you’re a weekend warrior, spending time on the trail with friends and family, or an experienced athlete training for competition, be sure you’re prepared for injuries before heading out.
Outdoor enthusiasts most commonly injure ankles and feet while on the trail or cliffs. With its 26 delicate bones, the foot is particularly prone to injury. Children’s bones are softer than those of adults; thus, kids are more prone to fracture. Most often, broken bones occur as the result of a missed step or other sudden motion. Any motion that twists or stretches the bone, crushes or bends the foot in some unnatural or excessive manner can result in significant injury.
Kicking into a hard surface, rock or root may also result in painful broken toes. Jumping or falling, especially when you land feet-first, can result in a broken heel. Ankles, especially prone to sprains, strains and twists, are the most commonly injured joint when hiking. Ankle injuries typically occur as the result of excessive stretching of ligaments, such as stepping wrong on a rock or other obstruction.
The first rule of outdoor activities is to take along adequate water supplies, and food or snacks to provide energy on the trail. Although many hikers hit the trail wearing their cross trainers or other athletic shoe, sturdy, thick-soled hiking boots or shoes will provide the best protection in the outdoors. Wear layered clothing for potential weather changes. To protect yourself from the sun, wear a sports-rated sunscreen and a light hat. Don’t forget your emergency supplies, at minimum a first-aid kit, a compass or GPS, matches and a mini flashlight. Hike with a friend or group and always let someone at home know your plans and expected return time.
What to Do If You Are Injured on the Trail
If you’re hurt while on a hike or a climb, it’s important to stop immediately and evaluate the situation. Get to a safe, stable area where you can sit down and remove your shoe and sock. Carefully examine the ankle, foot and toes, looking for any signs of fracture. The presence of cuts, bruises or swelling may mask a more serious injury. Look for any signs of ankle or foot deformity, as this also indicates a potential for emergency. If you suspect a serious problem, immobilize the area and call for medical attention. Wrap or apply a splint to the affected area, taking care not to wrap it too tightly. If you have an emergency ice pack, apply it as quickly as possible while elevating the foot.
If you believe you can safely walk back, use a sturdy branch as a crutch or support your weight with the help another hiker. If the pain becomes too intense, stop and wait for someone to get help. Continuing on may cause further injury or extend the healing period. Once you reach civilization, proceed immediately to the closest emergency room or urgent care center for evaluation and treatment.