Preparing for Backcountry AccidentsJan 30, 2014
When you live in areas with beautiful mountains and valleys, you tend to want to get out and enjoy them. And when you do, it’s going to happen, you’re going to get hurt. From Teton Valley Health Care in Driggs, Idaho, Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mo Brown talks about the types of injuries that can come from backcountry adventures and how to handle them when they happen. Dr. Brown says a lot of the times, bad luck plays a big factor, but he give some tips on how to minimize injuries that occur in the backcountry.
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Interviewer: When you live in an area with beautiful mountains and beautiful valleys a lot of times people want to get out and enjoy them. Sometimes they take it to an extreme. Even not when you're taking it to an extreme you can get hurt out there.
We're talking with Dr. Brown. He's an orthopedic surgeon at the Teton Valley Medical Center. Let's talk about some of the injuries you see in this beautiful country that you have here. What are some of the more common orthopedic injuries?
Dr. Brown: Lots of injuries occur in the back country. In the winter I see lots of ski and snowboard injuries and a lot of snowmobile injuries. In the summer it's the entire gamut: golf, fishing, rock climbing, mountain climbing and you name it.
Interviewer: Just getting out and doing something you can potentially hurt yourself.
Dr. Brown: Right.
Interviewer: Do you any thought or any tips for people as to maybe minimize their risks when they're participating in whatever it is they enjoy?
Dr. Brown: Just pre-plan, precondition, get in shape, have the right equipment and make sure you know where you're going. If you haven't done it before, go with someone who has.
Interviewer: What are some of the more common reasons you would see somebody coming in here? Is it because they didn't plan well enough? Is there one that's bigger than the others?
Dr. Brown: Certainly the most common is bad luck.
Interviewer: Okay, so it's just something you can't control.
Dr. Brown: A series of events conspire against you and you break or tear something.
Interviewer: Yeah. Would you say that those were preventable or at least you could see it coming?
Dr. Brown: Not always, that's part of the thrill of being out there. You're not on a Disney Land ride. Anything can happen, and I think that's part of the impetus and the satisfaction that people have going into the back country. I know that's what I like about it. I like going out and knowing that there's some risk. You control it as much as you can, but that's part of the enjoyment for sure.
Interviewer: Let's wrap up with this last question. It's going to happen. If I'm with somebody and something severe happens to them, what should I do for them at that point? A lot of times you don't have cell reception, you're not able to call. Do I leave them and run to get help? Do I try to get them out?
Dr. Brown: Good questions. Like I said, preparation is the key. If you go back in there in the back country you want to have some backup plans. I can tell you my group, I'm a back country snowmobiler, so most of the time we're back there where we're nowhere close to any type facilities. There's no communication. There's no cell phone service, so we have GPS radios that we can contact one another and even if someone's unconscious, you can pull where they are and find out where they're at.
We try not to go with less than three or four guys. We have GPS locators. The brand we use is called a Spot. If you're in deep trouble you can push 9-1-1, and even if you're out of cell phone range you can get help.
Interviewer: So there's some technology now that's has really changed things.
Dr. Brown: Yeah, for a couple of hundred bucks you and your group can have an emergency plan for getting help in that. It can mean a difference between living or dying, but more importantly it can mean the difference between two of the most miserable hours you've ever had and 26 of the most miserable hours you've ever had.
Recording: We're your daily dose of science, conversation and medicine. This is The Scope, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.