Given the COVID-19 situation and extended periods of restrictions, closures and confinements, being outdoors and in touch with nature is a perfect remedy to pandemic boredom and isolation.  More people are leaning towards skidoos and ATVs as an outlet, but many are not taking the proper steps to stay safe, resulting in injuries and deaths.

Preventing Injuries

In our Trauma Center alone, trauma admission statistics of ski-doo- and ATV-related injuries are already higher than last year, and the season is not over yet.[i] It is disturbing because we know that many of these injuries are preventable.  Wearing a helmet is a first step to staying safe before even hopping on your vehicle. Crashing into trees or being ejected and hitting the hardened slow can result in devastating traumatic brain injuries.  A helmet can help prevent this. Being ejected will also lead to other severe injuries, such as fractured ribs, punctured lungs, organs injuries, and life-threatening internal bleeding.

In addition to wearing an appropriate helmet, make sure that you know all the laws regarding ATV and skidoo usage.  Stay on the trails. Respect the speed limits.  As tempting as it may be, keep small children from driving, because we also see many small children being injured.  Avoid riding over frozen bodies of water unless you know with 100% certainty that it is thick enough to do so.  A group of 6 snowmobilers died recently by falling through the ice in St-Jean during a touring event. [ii] Thankfully, just weeks later, another 6 people’s lives were spared after falling through the ice in Lake Magog.[iii] Please stick to the designated trails.

If you are the more adventurous type and are into stunt riding, it is a good idea to stay within your level of stunts.  Trying a stunt for the first time that another rider has been performing for years is not a great idea and can lead to injuries.  Finally, mixing alcohol, drugs and driving any vehicle, including ATVs and skidoos, increases the risk of injury multifold.  At all times, you need to be fully aware of your surrounding and your reflexes needs to be as quick as possible in order to react to any situation that may arise.

Serving a Huge Territory

There are hundreds of kilometers of trails around the Montreal area alone.[iv]  As a Level-1 Trauma Centre, our hospital services the entire region of Montreal south of highway 40, down to the US border in the Montéregie, over to the Eastern townships, and westwards towards Akwesasne Mohawk Reserve. We also receive all the transfers from the Northern Quebec Territory, such as from Kuujjuaq and Puvirnituq. This is a vast area for injuries to occur.

With this enormous territory to cover and no helicopter evacuation service that is able to drastically cut time down the time necessary to receive advanced care, patients at an even greater risk and the chances of survival in the case of serious injuries are diminished. With each passing moment, the danger of bleeding out increases and patients risk missing out on needed medical procedures to survive their injuries.

This is why injury prevention is all the more important in our province.  Research shows that over 90% of injuries are preventable.[v]  This represents hundreds of thousands of preventable injuries, many lives lost, and many families forever changed.  Following a few basic recommendations could make the difference between living the life you planned or having a life with less ideal circumstances, such as being confined to a wheelchair or worse.

Keep up the activities in order to stay active and maintain your mental health.  We simply want to make sure that you are aware of the risks and that you are doing your best to stay safe.  By doing so, you will still have a fun time and we will avoid meeting you here at our Trauma Centre.  Don’t forget to respect the COVID-19 guidelines put in place to keep you, your loved ones, friends and the community safe as well.

Tara Grenier, M.Sc., CAT(C)
Injury Prevention Professional
Montreal General Hospital-McGill University Health Centre
Trauma Program
[i] Montreal General Hospital – McGill University Health Centre. Trauma Registry.

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