Hurt While Hiking: How to Splint a Suspected Fracture
Imagine that you’re out enjoying a beautiful hike, miles away from civilization, when your friend suddenly slips and falls to the ground. He’s holding his lower leg and screaming in pain. What would you do? Of course, you’d try to call for help. But, if that were not possible, you’d need to help your friend get out of the woods – and before you attempted to move him, you’d need to attend to his fractured leg. Most likely, you wouldn’t have a lot of technical gear with you. But, with the clothes on your back and the woods surrounding you, you should be able to find the tools you need to prepare a makeshift splint – one that could possibly save your friend’s life.
Knowing how to treat a fracture is one of the simplest and most important first aid skills you can acquire. In order of importance, here are the steps you should take:
- Call for help, if possible.
- Control any bleeding with an improvised tourniquet, which should be monitored and removed as soon as the bleeding stops.
- Tell your friend to remain still in order to stabilize the broken bone and prevent further damage. If another person is available, instruct that person to help your friend stay still as you prepare the splint.
- Create a makeshift splint from two rigid items that are at least half the length of the fractured leg (longer objects will provide extra support). Just about anything will do – hiking poles, branches, umbrellas, backpack frame parts, etc.
- Find a way to tie the braces to the leg. Again, anything will do – belts, bandanas, neckties, torn strips of clothing, etc.
- Carefully slide the ties under the space below the knee and ease them into position, one at the ankle, one below the fracture, one below the knee, etc.
- Place the splints on top of the ties, one on each side of the leg.
- If you have padding material readily available – spare socks, torn strips of clothing, etc. – you can place it between the leg and the splints for comfort (do not spend a lot of time on this).
- Starting at the ankle, tie the splints snugly to the leg so that you can easily slide two fingers between the tie and the leg.
- Assess your friend for signs of shock – confusion, rapid breathing, clammy skin, unconsciousness – which is likely in the event of a severe fracture. To treat your friend for shock, cover him to keep him warm.
- Help your friend out of the woods in any way possible (do not leave him alone). For example, he might be able to hop on one foot if he leans on you for support, or you and another person might carry him.
To learn more, or if you would like to have a suspected fracture evaluated by a physician, please contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care, where you can see a doctor at our walk-in clinic today.