SALT LAKE CITY — An easing of COVID-19 restrictions means freedom for many to enjoy the great outdoors, but Intermountain Healthcare reminds Utahns that traumas can happen anytime and anywhere.
Intermountain reports a nearly ten percent increase in trauma-related incidents over 2020 already, though precautions can help reduce this number.
With Memorial Day fast approaching as the unofficial start of summer, Intermountain trauma experts are reminding Utahns about the importance of staying safe when out recreating in Utah’s mountains, canyons, and lakes, or just having fun on a bike in the neighborhood.
More than 1,200 people die each year and thousands are injured in hiking, bicycle, ATV, roller blade, scooter or skateboard accidents in the United States.
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.
Jason Kitchen, 35, knows first-hand the importance of being prepared when it comes to recreating. Last year, he was biking with his family 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 in the area stepped in to assist, applying pressure to the wound until help could arrive and get him to a 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.
Intermountain emergency and trauma teams have these safety reminders to 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 Intermountain senior medical director of emergency medicine and trauma operations Dr. David Hasleton. “People involved in accidents wearing helmets are far more likely to survive and get back on that bike, scooter, or ATV.”
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.
It's important 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.
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.
Over the last five years, almost half of all people who died on Utah’s roads were not buckled up; the Utah Department of Transportation says this is the most common factor in roadway fatalities.
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 all warn parents to empty out kiddie pools or buckets of water at home after use, closely supervise children in the water, and have a telephone nearby in case of an emergency.
5. PREPARE FOR MOTHER NATURE
Hikers are safer in groups, and should always tell people their anticipated route, including an estimated return time. Bringing extra water and food in case of an emergency is key.
Wearing clothes that anticipate weather changes and shoes with good traction can help avoid injuries.
Bringing along first aid supplies is crucial in remote areas, as is a GPS tracker, rescue beacon, or satellite phone in locations with no cell service.
6. GET HELP
It sounds obvious, but don't delay seeking medical treatment. In some cases, getting help as soon as possible can prevent an injury from becoming life threatening.