Treating A Broken Leg Miles From Civilization

Strains and sprains tend to suck the joy out of a trip. Broken legs, on the other hand, pose a much greater threat. Here are some steps of treating one to ensure to can get back home.

Stabilize It
Assuming you don’t have a compound fracture (bone breaking through skin), your first step is to stabilize the leg. This means finding something that is sturdy to be used as a brace, such as strong sticks, boards, hiking poles, tent poles, and so on. If using sticks, make sure they’re thick enough to avoid breaking when pressure is applied.

Wrap It
Secure the brace to the leg to keep it immobile and prevent further injury. Place the boards, tent poles, or sticks on either side of the leg. Wrap cloth or string around them, tight enough to secure the brace but not so tight that it cuts off circulation or causes additional pain. Wrapping material can be found in a lot of places for the hiker or camper, anything from shoe laces, trash bags, or even an unused tent can do the job in a pinch.

Crutch It
Unless you routinely bring crutches on an outdoor trip, you’ll need something to lean on while you try to hoof it back to civilization. If your hiking sticks were spared from acting as your brace, then you’re in luck. Walking will still be immensely painful, but at least the sticks take off some of the edge. If you typically hike or camp without poles, however, you’ll need to scrounge for suitable crutches. Thick fallen branches will serve you right, as will a backpack frame (though you may need to hunch a bit).

Adjust To Terrain
If you followed a beaten path during your trip, you’ll be able to make it back just fine without giving a second thought to dangerous terrain. However, if you climbed steep hill faces or crossed fast-moving rivers prior to your accident, you’ll have serious landscape to contend with in your weakened state on the way back. You have two options: Stare down Mother Nature until she blinks (that is, attempt to re-traverse the terrain and hope you make it), or make adjustments by seeking an alternate–and much safer–route. This can be extremely difficult if you foolhardedly ventured into the outdoors sans any navigational tools. Assuming you exercised caution and foresight, however, rerouting your return trip through safer passage on a topographical map shouldn’t be a bother.

Take Your Time
The worst thing you can do when nursing a broken leg in the middle of a largely uninhabited zip code is to put the pedal to the medal. Sure, you’re fluctuating between fits of agonizing pain and slightly-less-agonizing pain, but you risk injuring yourself further and possibly becoming stranded when you rush. Don’t try to prove how much of a tough guy or chick you are. Take breaks when the pain becomes too much, double-check your wrappings, massage the feeling back into your hands after your crutch has numbed them–whatever you need to make it safely. No one will think any less of you for taking your time.

A sprained leg is enough to make any jaunt through the woods a laborious and painful one. Factor in a broken bone and the difficulty scale jumps to 11. You can bring that number down a notch or two by properly dressing your broken leg and thereby increasing your chances of survival.

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