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Tree Stands a Bigger Danger Than Guns


Three decades ago, the most notable danger to hunters in West Virginia was the possibility of being shot by a fellow hunter.   Over the course of time, hunter education requirements and the law calling for the wearing of blaze orange in the gun hunting seasons, has rapidly reduced the number of firearms related hunting tragedies.

A recent study by doctors at Ohio State University reveals the biggest threat to hunters these days isn’t firearms, it’s falls–particularly falls from tree stands.

"We were impressed by the number of patients we were seeing with non-gunshot related injuries," said study author Dr. Charles Cook at the OSU Medical Center in Columbus. "The majority of people we see  brought to our trauma center for hunting related injuries have been injured in falls from tree stands."

Cook says in most cases, the injuries are severe.

"They’re falling anywhere from 10 to 30 feet on average," said Cook. "I know there are a lot more people who are falling who aren’t severely injured and don’t make it to our trauma bay.  But about all of those we’re seeing wind up admitted to the hospital and about 80-percent of them wind up needing some sort of surgical procedure."

"You can imagine, you fall 20-feet and you land on Lord knows what at the bottom of the tree," said Cook. "We’re seeing long bone fractures, we’re seeing spine fractures, head injuries, internal organ injuries, and more often than not they need an operation or two."

Cook is also a hunter and recognizes the enjoyment of the outdoors and hunting, but cringes at the thought of a hunter suffering a severe injury possibly taking them out of the hunting ranks forever and maybe killing them. 

"The vast majority of people that we’ve been seeing have not been wearing safety harnesses or any of the body arresting systems," Cook said. "That was one of the big conclusions we had, we really wanted to get the message out to today’s hunter.  With the popularity of deer hunting and the popularity of deer stands, you’re way more likely to fall out a tree and get badly injured.  We really hope to raise awareness so that people will start wearing the safety equipment."


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