This article by John Forrester and Christopher Holstege from the December 2009 edition of Wilderness & Environmental Medicine published by the Wilderness Medical Society presents an excellent model for understanding the most common types of illnesses and injuries that occur in a backcountry setting. Understanding these trends is extremely helpful for preparing staff to handle what they most likely will encounter in the field.
“The most common traumatic injuries necessitating a case incident report occurring in visitors to Shenandoah National Park are lower extremity soft tissue injuries and lacerations incurred while hiking. This pattern of adult trauma has now been found to be consistent among several geographically different National Parks in the United States and represents an injury pattern that all wilderness/outdoor care providers need to be competent to treat. The percentage of trauma victims under the age of 18 years as well as the patterns of traumatic injury that they experienced are similar among geographically distinct parks. In addition, the medical illnesses persons under the age of 18 years experience are similar. Knowing that trauma injury patterns are relatively similar but that medical illness is more locale specific can help health care providers tailor their resource allotment and health management protocols to their particular areas of care.”