The Espace Mont-Blanc

Traumatic injuries

Sprains, fractures, dislocations. The main injuries of hikers

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Sprains

A frequent type of injury during outdoor activities is represented by sprains, which involve joint structure damage and subsequent swelling due to post-trauma hemorrhaging.

The ends of our bones are held in reciprocal relationships through a complex system of soft tissues (ligaments and capsules), which align the articular ends and allow certain movements while blocking others. When a bone is pushed violently into the joint, the capsule can be ripped and torn and result in more or less serious damage (contusions, torn ligaments, fractured malleolus).

The main symptoms are:

  • Pain in the joint;
  • Swelling and the appearance of bluish-black bruising in the overlying skin;
  • More serious injuries can compromise joint stability and dramatically reduce the moveability of the free part of the limb.

What to do:

  • Call for help;
  • Immobilize the free part of the limb;
  • Apply cold packs as soon as possible;
  • For acute pain use pain-relief medicine.

Fractures

These concern the partial or complete breakage of bone segment. In excursionism this occurs most commonly in the limbs and can be classified as simple, closed or compound. In the first case, the bone is fractured but the ends of the bone are still in proper alignment; in the second case the ends are no longer aligned; in the third, bone fragments or shards perforate the overlying tissues (muscle, skin) to break through the body surface (a combined fracture/flesh wound).

The symptoms of simple and closed fractures are:

  • Shooting pain when pressed and during efforts to move or when being moved;
  • Appearance of swelling after a few minutes and a bluish-black skin color at the site of the fracture;
  • Deformity of the fractured bone segment (for closed fractures);
  • Inability to move the limb or fractured segment (for complete fractures).

What to do:

  • Call for help;
  • Assess the possibilities for transporting the victim;
  • Remove anything that might constrict the damaged limb (e.g., shoes) before swelling sets in;
  • For compound fractures, immobilize the fractured bone fragments without making any effort to re-align them;
  • For open fractures, disinfect the flesh wound and cover it with sterile gauze without making any effort to push the bone fragments back under the skin surface.

Dislocations

Joints are formed by the ends of two opposing bones that are connected by a joint capsule.  A dislocation is when the end of one of these bones ruptures the joint capsule and is moved out of its normal position.

Most dislocations involve the shoulder joint, but elbow and knee cap dislocations are not uncommon.

The symptoms of a dislocation are:

  • Similar to those of a simple fracture, but localized at a joint.

What to do:

  • Call for help;
  • Do not try to move the bone back to its normal position;
  • Immobilize the joint.

Head injury

With head injuries, what seem to be minor traumas at first can at times have serious consequences that do not become apparent until some time has passed. With this in mind, every case involving a head injury should be handled as a serious trauma and treated at a hospital.

If the victim insists that this is unnecessary, always consider how the injury itself may be influencing their capacity to assess their own physical condition.

The most important symptoms are:

  • Loss of consciousness: failure to respond to external stimuli;
  • Altered state of consciousness: inability to respond coherently to the rescuer's questions, disorientation;
  • Cannot remember what happened;
  • State of agitation;
  • Convulsions, dizziness, nausea;
  • Bleeding from the ears;
  • Signs of limb paralysis;
  • Cardiac-respiratory arrest.

What to do:

  • Call for help;
  • Apply ice or snow to the head;
  • Position the victim with their head higher than their feet
  • Never give them anything to eat or drink (risks of vomiting and suffocation);
Avoid moving the neck (possibility of undetectable vertebral damage).