Preparation critical to hiking injury prevention

In his seven years as a backcountry ranger in North Cascades National Park, Tom Corbett saw a lot of injured hikers and campers.

"Most of the injuries were related to bad decisions," said Corbett, who now runs a Boy Scout Camp in Sheperdsville, Ky. "They aren't prepared, or they start out too late in the day or they don't know when to turn back."

This is why before Corbett took his 14-year-old son, Forrest, on a hike near Cascade Pass last month he made sure his son was prepared. The night before the hike over steep icy slopes, he gave his son an ice ax lesson in the kitchen of their cabin. And when their hike up Sahale Peak got too tricky, Corbett turned around for the day and found a snowfield for more training.

But not everybody prepares for their outdoor excursions like Corbett.

More than 11,000 people were treated for camping- and hiking-related injuries in 2007 according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Last week, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in Rosemont, Ill., released a statement outlining its recommendations for preparing for an outdoor trip.

"You should always try to camp with at least one partner, so if someone gets hurt, the other person can help," Dr. John D. Kelly of Philadelphia said in the statement.

"Also, before you leave for the camping trip, be sure to notify someone at home where you are going and when you expect to return."

Other recommendations from the AAOS:

-- Bring a first-aid kit with clean dressings, adhesives, antibiotic ointment, sterile gauze, splint materials, a flare, a chemical ice pack, a knife and cell phone.

-- Wear appropriate footwear.

-- For a twisted ankle: Apply compression in the form of a wrap, apply ice and elevate the limb. Then try to walk as little as possible.

-- For severe cuts: Apply direct pressure to control bleeding and rinse the wound thoroughly. Apply dressing or a clean cloth to the wound.

-- Sprained muscles should be wrapped and iced.

-- For fractures, apply ice and immobilize the area with a splint.

-- Be aware of harmful plants and animals.

-- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, even in cool weather.

-- Wear sunscreen and insect repellent.

-- Only use tools for their intended purpose. "Using a knife to open a can or cut wood can result in a serious laceration," the AAOS says.

-- Check weather forecasts before your trip.

-- Wear protective gear, and do not attempt activities beyond your ability.

"When you are making a decision, think about the consequences," Corbett said. "Think about the injuries and the rehab if you make the wrong decision. It's not worth that. It's always OK to turn around."

As Forrest Corbett sat on a rock listening to his dad dish out this advice, he couldn't help but think it sounded an awful lot like common sense. After all, he's a Boy Scout.

"I think the Boy Scouts have the best motto," Forrest Corbett said. " 'Be Prepared.' "