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Don't Let Injury Spoil Outdoor Summer Fun

Preventing problems requires preparation, planning and anticipating trouble, experts say

MONDAY, June 16, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Now that the outdoor recreation season is in full swing, new statistics from the U.S. government warn that your risk of injury is also in full swing.

From 2004 to 2005, almost 213,000 Americans were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries received during outdoor recreational activities. More than half of those injuries occurred among people aged 10 to 24, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We want people to enjoy the outdoors," said study co-author Arlene I. Greenspan, a senior scientist at the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "However, we also want people to know that outdoor activities can and do lead to injuries."

There are ways that people can decrease their risk of injuries, Greenspan said, adding, "They can either prevent them or prevent the seriousness of outdoor recreational injuries."

Among the 212,708 injured people, 51.5 percent were 10 to 24 years of age. The most common injuries were fractures (27.4 percent) and sprains (23.9 percent). Most injuries, 52 percent, were to the arms or legs. Twenty-three percent of the injuries were to the head or neck, the researchers found.

Of all the injuries examined in the report, 6.5 percent were diagnosed as traumatic brain injury.

The researchers found that snowboarding (25.5 percent), sledding (10.8 percent), and hiking (6.3 percent) were associated with the highest percentage of injuries requiring emergency department visits.

"This is the first time that there has been a study of outdoor recreational activities on a national basis," Greenspan said. "We don't know if this is an increase or decrease in the number of people injured each year," she said.

The findings were published in the June issue of the journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine.

There are a number of precautions people can take to prevent injuries from outdoor recreational activities, Greenspan said.

"There are three Ps of prevention," Greenspan said. "These are preparation, planning and problem anticipation. If you follow some simple guidelines, you will decrease your risk for injury, and if an injury occurs, you will be better able to take care of it."

First, know your skill level and your limits, Greenspan said. Also, you need to have the right equipment, and you need to make sure that all the equipment is in good working order, she said. You also need to maintain a level of fitness.

"You want to plan what you are going to do. So, you want to make sure that other people know where you're going," Greenspan said. "In addition, you want to anticipate problems that could happen. You may want to bring a first-aid kit. You may want to bring a two-way radio."

More information

For more on outdoor injuries, visit the CDC.

SOURCES: Arlene I. Greenspan, Dr.PH., M.P.H., senior scientist, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; June 2008, Wilderness & Environmental Medicine
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