When the weather starts to soften, there is nothing like spending time outdoors. Many websites and resources can help you find the perfect hike. These days, they provide all of the information you need, even reviews from past hikers! You do not have to go into it without knowing what to expect; however, hiking injuries are possible.
The best part about hiking is that nearly anyone, including families with children, can do it. You don’t have to be an experienced hiker or have ever even hiked before. However, whatever your experience level, before you set out, it’s essential that you are aware of the most common hiking injuries as well as how to prevent and treat them. At South Shore Orthopedics, we have treated these hiking injuries often, mainly due to our local terrain.
You’ve probably already had a blister at some point in your life, but they are a seemingly unavoidable part of hiking. Blisters form as the result of friction, which causes fluid to accumulate and swell between irritated layers of skin. Generally considered one of the minor hiking injuries, left untreated or treated improperly, blisters may lead to infection.
To avoid or prevent blisters, wear socks and properly fitting shoes that are appropriate for the terrain you’ll be hiking and the weather conditions. You should also do your best to keep your feet dry.
If you feel a blister coming on, apply a piece of athletic tape and moleskin to prevent it from rupturing. If it ruptures, drain any remaining fluid, then apply antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection. Cover the affected area with a Band-Aid and athletic tape.
Twisted or Sprained Ankle
Depending on where you choose to hike, you’re likely to encounter a variety of potential hazards, such as slippery surfaces, uneven terrain, rocks, or other hidden obstacles that may increase your risk of a twisted or sprained ankle.
Again, proper footwear that offers ankle protection can help prevent this type of injury. You should also use a hiking stick or other form of stabilizer to help you balance your steps. If you twist your ankle, your inclination may be to walk it off. However, you should take a few minutes to evaluate the extent of your injury. If you suspect a sprain, remember the acronym R.I.C.E. which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Knee Pain and Joint Inflammation
Some hikers, much like runners, may be more at risk than others for experiencing knee pain as hiking injuries. Especially those who have had a prior injury, have weak or imbalanced leg muscles, knee caps that don’t track correctly, log a lot of miles on the trail or wear ill-fitting or worn-out shoes.
Even those without any of these factors may still experience knee pain and joint inflammation simply due to the amount of stress the joint is placed under. Hiking uphill or on flat ground is one thing, but when you hike downhill, your knees are placed under significantly more stress. As you descend one leg at a time, the leading knee is forced to absorb the impact of not only your body weight but also the added forces of going downhill and the weight of anything you might be packing. In fact, research indicates that the compressive force between the tibia and femur (or knee joint) is 7-8 times your body weight when going downhill, setting the stage for hiking injuries.
If you experience knee pain while hiking, the use of trekking poles can help redistribute some of the forces on your knees and ankles to your arms and shoulders. But the most effective way to mitigate knee pain is the strengthen the muscles that stabilize and support the knee joint, such as your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and calf muscles. Wearing a knee brace or learning the proper way to apply Kinesio tape can help add external support and prevent hiking injuries.
This should be a no-brainer for anyone who spends time outdoors, but sunburn is one of the leading hiking injuries commonly experienced. You should apply sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure and pack enough to reapply at least every two hours. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher for extended outdoor activity. To give you an idea of how much to carry with you, dermatologists say that two people on a four-hour hike on a sunny day should use an entire 4 fl. oz. tube of sunscreen if they apply it correctly.
For added protection, you should wear clothing made from UPF-rated fabrics and sunglasses that offer 100% UV-ray protection. Remember, the filtered sun can still damage your skin, so these recommendations still apply when conditions are cloudy.
Heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and hypothermia are among the most common hiking injuries. It’s essential to know the signs and symptoms of each.
While heat exhaustion may leave you feeling tired, nauseous, and/or dizzy, symptoms are often relieved with rest, food, and rehydration. Heat stroke, on the other hand, is considered life-threatening and may include symptoms such as confusion, delirium, and loss of consciousness.
What you might not realize is that even in summer, hypothermia can be a concern. This occurs when your body’s core temperature drops below average, and like heat stroke, it can lead to poor judgment, confusion, loss of consciousness, and even death.
If you plan to hike, make sure to drink plenty of fluids during the days leading up to and during your hike. You should eat several small meals throughout the day and avoid alcohol and caffeine. This can prevent hiking injuries due to these problems.
Contact South Shore Orthopedics.
When the weather starts to improve, it will be a great time to hit the trails. But keep in mind accidents happen to even the most experienced and best-prepared hikers. It’s essential to know how to rescue yourself if you experience a hiking injury.
Are you going for a hike and want to have a proper plan in place in case of hiking injuries? For fractures and other orthopedic injuries, contact South Shore Orthopedics. We understand that accidents and injuries happen unexpectedly, so when possible, we offer same-day appointments. Call (781) 337-5555 or check out our website to schedule an appointment.