Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.See all posts »
Caving Injuries in the United States
Caving is a sport that is practiced worldwide with increasing enthusiasm. Like every other outdoor adventure, it has its unique epidemiology of accidents and injuries.
In an article entitled “The Epidemiology of Caving Injuries in the United States” (Wilderness & Environmental Medicine 2012;23:215-222), Allejandro Stella-Watts and colleagues performed a retrospective analysis of caving incidents documented by the National Speleological Society – American Caving Society annual publication. What they found was that in a cohort of 1356 victims, 83% were male and 17% were female. The most common incident leading to an injury was a fall, which was also noted to contribute significantly to fatalities. The lower limbs were most common anatomical sites of injuries, followed by the upper limbs and head. The injuries were broken bones, cuts, bruises, and scrapes.
This will lead expedition planners and rescuers to take measures to minimize falls, which appear to be common in this often cold, wet, and slippery environment. Other problems identified included drowning, exposure to toxic gas, exposure, hypothermia, animal attack, and burns. This has implications for medical training and can help in the treatment and prevention of future injuries.
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