Watch out for these common hiking injuries

Arizona has some of the best hiking weather in the country year-round. Combine that with a variety of terrains throughout the state and you have many Arizonans who are active on the trails. 

But what if you encounter an injury during a hike? Erik Dean, DO, a sports medicine specialist and independent member of the HonorHealth Medical Staff, weighs in about what you could experience on the trails and what to do if you are injured.

Common hiking issues

Most hiking injuries are caused by a fall or near fall. A fall may cause injuries to your shoulder or wrist from trying to brace yourself. It is also possible to sustain a concussion if you were to hit your head during a fall. Even a slip or near fall can cause knee and ankle sprains.

“Overuse injuries are also common for hikers,” shares Dr. Dean. “If you’re under the age of 50 and new to hiking, you may experience tendonitis in the Achilles, patella or hip flexor. If you’re 50 years of age and older, arthritis of the hip, knee or back is a frequent issue.”

Believe it or not, cardiac arrest is also something you should watch out for. Why? The high level of exertion required by hiking, including large inclines and long hikes, can create an overload on your heart.

“If you have an early family history of heart disease, meaning a family member who had a cardiac event prior to age 45 for male relatives and age 55 for female relatives, or if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, you may be at an increased risk for a cardiac event while hiking,” explains Dr. Dean. “If you fall into one of these categories, you should get screened by your primary care doctor or cardiologist prior to starting a hiking routine.”

An HonorHealth patient gets injured while hiking

Treating hiking injuries

It’s important to know when you need help. Some minor injuries you may be able to treat on your own. For example, if you have a cramp, you may be able to take a break, stretch it out and hydrate. However, there are some injuries that you shouldn’t try taking care of yourself.

“If you have an open fracture where you can see bone protruding from your body, you can’t bear weight, or your ankle or knee gives out when trying to walk, you need to get immediate medical attention,” says Dr. Dean. “With increasing exertion, if you are experiencing chest discomfort, which is more common in men, or shortness of breath, which is more common in women, you may be having a cardiac event and should call 911 immediately.”

Even if you’re able to finish your hike, if you’re experiencing ongoing issues with an injury, make sure you seek help, either by seeing your primary care doctor, visiting urgent care or making an appointment with a specialist.

Need to see a specialist for a hiking or sports-related injury?

Make an appointment today with one of our sports medicine specialists.

Find a doctor