Intermountain Healthcare hospitals have seen a nine percent increase in trauma-related incidents this year compared to 2020, as people stop quarantining due to the COVID pandemic and are seeking to enjoy more outdoor activities.
Additionally, more than 1,200 people die each year in the United States, and thousands are injured, in hiking, bicycle, ATV, roller blade, scooter or skateboard accidents.
With Memorial Day weekend coming up, and with May being National Trauma Awareness month, Intermountain Healthcare trauma experts are reminding Utahns about the importance of staying safe when out recreating in Utah’s mountains, canyons, and lakes – or just out riding their bikes or running in their neighborhood.
They say knowing how to stay safe, preparing in advance, and using the right safety gear is key to having a safe and healthy summer.
“Traumas can happen anytime, anywhere, and any place,” said David Hasleton, Intermountain Healthcare’s senior medical director of emergency medicine and trauma operations. “There are things we can all do to prevent life-threatening injuries.”
Jason Kitchen, 35, knows first-hand the importance of being prepared when it comes to recreating. On April 16, 2021, he was biking with his family in Southern Utah, when he hit a small jump and flipped over his handlebars, hitting his head, shoulder and severely lacerating his inner thigh.
An off-duty St. George Police dispatcher happened to be in the area and stepped-in to assist, applying pressure to the wound until help could arrive and get him to Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.
Kitchen, who is an avid mountain biker says he is grateful for his helmet, other safety gear and those who responded that day so he could ride again.
Outdoor enthusiast, Jeremy Achter, 46, also knows the importance of being safe while enjoying the great outdoor but knows sometimes accidents happen.
Last October, while on a trail run on Dromedary Peak in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Achter slipped and fell down the mountain approximately 150 feet, sustaining several life-threatening injuries.
An Intermountain Life Flight crew and Salt Lake County Search and Rescue teams responded, hoisting him from the scene and transporting him to Intermountain Medical Center for care.
Today, Achter is back to trail running and, in his words, “living life to the fullest.”
Intermountain emergency and trauma teams have five safety reminders to help everyone have a safer summer and help avoid a trip to the emergency room.
1.WEAR A HELMET
“The huge key to saving your life is wearing the right equipment – including a helmet,” said Dr. Hasleton. “People involved in accidents wearing helmets are far more likely to survive and get back on that bike, scooter, or ATV. Those who don’t wear a helmet end up with a longer recovery time or don’t recover at all.”
Utah has more traumatic brain injuries among children than almost any other state in the country, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control. Sadly, ATV crashes play a major role in that statistic. Simply wearing a helmet, even for short rides, goes a long way in keeping everyone safe.
Also, don’t forget to check the expiration date of all helmets. Most helmets are designed to last about two to five seasons, and only one impact – similar to air bags in a car. Hair products, sweat, and cleaning solutions can break down the liner and interior padding of helmets. Kids outgrow helmets like they outgrow everything else. Make sure that helmet still fits before the. first ride of the year.
"Replacing a helmet can add up, but it’s cheaper than a trip to the emergency department,” said Dr. Hasleton.
2. WEAR OTHER SAFETY GEAR
Utah Department of Health data shows that a child is 1,000 times more likely to be injured riding on an ATV than riding in a car.
“Don’t forget there is more to protective gear than just a helmet,” said Jessica Strong, community health manager at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. “Goggles, over-the-ankle boots, gloves, sturdy full-length pants, a long-sleeved shirt and the right footwear are all great at taking a little punishment if you take a fall.”
3. WEAR A SEAT BELT
Fatal car crashes typically nearly double during the summer months in Utah.
In 2020, Utah’s traffic fatalities reached a 14-year-high and 276 people did not survive. The most common contributing factor to roadway fatalities, according to the Utah Department of Transportation, is failure to buckle up.
In fact, over the last five years, almost half of all people who died on Utah’s roads were not buckled up. In 2020, there were 61 unrestrained fatalities on Utah roads and 170 unrestrained serious injuries.
“The act of buckling up can save your life and the lives of those in your vehicle,” said Dr. Hasleton. “It only takes a few seconds, but can keep you from becoming a statistic.”
4. WEAR A LIFE JACKET
Rivers in Utah are running high, cold, and fast this time of year. Drowning is the second leading cause of death among Utah children under the age of 14.
“Tragedies can happen in the blink of an eye,” said Strong. “Children should always be supervised whenever they are in or around water, even when they are wearing a life jacket.”
Experts at Primary Children’s Hospital have these general water safety guidelines:
- Empty out kiddie pools or buckets of water at home after use
- Have children wear a life jacket whenever near water
- Never take your eyes off of children in the water
- While supervising, stay alert and avoid distractions
- Teach children to swim, but remember, there is no substitute for supervision
- Keep a telephone nearby in case of an emergency
5. PREPARE FOR THE OUTDOORS
Intermountain Life Flight lead paramedic Rick Black says being prepared for all circumstances and using common sense is the key to staying safe while in Utah’s mountains and backcountry.
General safety tips:
- Bring a friend or go with a group, especially if you’re going to a remote area. Tell people where you’re going and when you will return.
- Take extra water or items to filter or disinfect water.
- Pack extra food items.
- Dress appropriately for hiking and potential weather changes.
- Pack extra clothes in your bag so you can add layers if needed.
- Wear sturdy shoes with good traction.
- Wear pants to prevent contact with poison ivy or stinging nettles.
Equipment to consider:
- Multi-tool or pocketknife
- Something to start a fire, such as a good flint
- Bandages and medical wrap
- Tarp to stay dry or transport an injured person out of the woods
- Space blanket to stay warm if temperatures drop
- Splint to support a sprain or fractured bone
- Weather radio
- GPS tracker, rescue beacon, or satellite phone if you’re going to an area with no cell service
- Mace or an air horn to scare off any bears
CALL FOR HELP
If you are injured this summer, do not delay care. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.