View Poll Results: Have you ever worried that you would whack your head and die on a hike?

87. You may not vote on this poll
  • No, don't be silly. I've never given it a thought.

    36 41.38%
  • Sometimes, I wonder about the possibility.

    43 49.43%
  • All the time. I wear a helmet whenever I leave the house.

    3 3.45%
  • Huh? What?

    5 5.75%
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Thread: Musings on Head Injuries

  1. #1
    Senior Member wardsgirl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Somewhere in NH

    Musings on Head Injuries

    Is it just me, or has anyone else been thinking of the possibility of dying from a head injury in the field?

    There's been a lot in the news about actress Natasha Richardson's untimely death today. Apparently, she hit her head in what sounds like a minor ski accident on relatively level terrain. Now, I figure that I generally fall at least once a day when hiking, I actually counted that I fell exactly 29 times on the LT last summer. You may know others who fall even more times than me. OK, maybe not. (No wonder no one wants to hike with me!) But seriously, I know I have hit my head before when traveling on ice, slippery stream crossings, the Long Trail, etc. Who would have thought that a simple slip and whack to the head could actually do you in? As a solo hiker, the possibility of whacking your head and dying may be magnified because of fewer people around to see what happened and render assistance. Has anyone else been thinking of the times they have hit their head- and survived? Scary!
    AMC Adopt-A-Trail Program Region Leader Emeritus: Pemigewasset 1993-2005 Southern Presidentials 2005-2017
    Trail Adopter: Webster Cliff Trail

  2. #2
    Senior Member BlackBuffalo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Sad news indeed.
    I know freak accidents are possible, deadly even. At any point I could drop dead of something.

    But if I had this on my brain all the time, everyday, I'd be too fearful to do any of things I enjoy. I'd use way to much precaution and it would cause me a world of stress.

    A concussion landed me in the hospital as a kid, for a week. So, excuse my crazy logic.

    Last edited by BlackBuffalo; 03-19-2009 at 03:21 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Silverfox's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Meredith New Hampshire
    While certainly the potential for head injury does exist in hiking I would guess the risk much less than skiing for example.. that being said

    we have the 'Patty" rule in place on all group hikes which essentially is to warn people about blowdowns and overhanging trees etc..As some wear visors or caps all the time the perriphial vision suffers.. especially for those not in the front of the group ..where you can get in the habit of just following..step by step..watching other peoples shoes....One of the gals in our group has just about knocked herself cold several times by walking into a head high particular blowdown on garfield I was sure she had lost a tooth...ever dropped a coconut on the floor??
    while we haven't as a group issued or recommended helmets while hiking we do as a courtesy announce "tree" from the leaders on back whenever something encroaches on the trail...
    Last edited by Silverfox; 03-19-2009 at 04:14 PM.
    # 44

  4. #4
    Senior Member PA Ridgerunner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Finger Lakes, NY
    I always wear my helmet, but they can't seem to stop me from licking the school bus windows.

    Rule #6: Don't take yourself so G.D. seriously. There are no other rules. - Zander

  5. #5
    Senior Member dentonfabrics's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Canterbury, NH
    The only place where I've ever considered that is on the Caps Ridge Trail. A person could do some serious damage to the ol' cranium if they wiped out on those rocks.

    I'm not the over-protective type. I dont always wear a helmut on my bike. But I'm somewhat surprised that some people (the over-protective types) dont consider wearing headgear for certain trails in certain conditions. There's helmuts for everything else, why not hiking?

  6. #6
    Senior Member woodsxc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Brunswick, ME.
    I think about it sometimes. Thought about it a lot while on Longs Peak- rock fall danger in the Trough and huge drops above the East Face combined to remind me to maintain 3 points of contact and check up slope regularly. But other very exposed places, I don't think about dying from a head injury.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Rik's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Nosing around
    3 or 4 concussions ago I use to think about it alot. Now not so much. Wait, what was the question?
    Safety is in the eye of the beholder

  8. #8
    Senior Member Stash's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Westbrook, ME
    Bike: Always
    In-line skate: Always
    Outside climbing: Always
    Indoor climbing: Never

    Regular hiking: doubtful

    Steeps on ice: Will as soon as I try it (after getting some education)

    What matters is what I do. Not what they do.

    Hiking Pics:

  9. #9
    Senior Member MadRiver's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Thornton, NH
    Iíve lost count how many times Iíve hit my head on a blowdown. My biggest concern, at least in winter hiking, is impaling myself on a rogue branch. A few times Iíve tripped over my own snowshoes and had gone headlong into a spike sticking out of the snow only to miss it by inches.

    On personal note, I was deeply saddened by the death of Natasha Richardson. I had always enjoyed her work. The theatre has lost an extremely talented actress.
    What do you mean he don't eat no meat? Ok, I'll do lamb.

  10. #10
    Senior Member sardog1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    If it ain't snowin' there, we ain't goin' there.
    I fell on icy level ground once and whacked the back of my head pretty hard. "As I lay pondering," I thought about the what if? for a couple of minutes. I travel solo 99.9% of the time and usually far from the madding crowd by preference. I resolved to take a helmet in future if the ice conditions warrant it, even if the slope or rock- or icefall hazards aren't blatant. Brain injuries are insidious, and your ability to recognize the symptoms and react on your own diminishes as they get worse.

    "Ň! kjśre Bymann gakk ei stjur og stiv,
    men kom her up og kjenn eit annat Liv!
    kom hit, kom hit, og ver ei daud og lat!
    kom kjenn, hot d'er, som heiter Svevn og Mat,
    og Drykk og TÝrste og det heile, som
    er Liv og Helse i ein Hovedsum."

    -- Aasmund O. Vinje, "Til Fjells!"

  11. #11
    Senior Member erugs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Manchester, NH
    Normally not a worrier.

    I worried about it -- as I was falling down Carter Dome -- last Sunday afternoon.

    I wondered about needing a helicopter rescue off the East Face route on Whitney last September when my arm cramped up solid to my shoulder and I still had a ways to climb.

    Volunteer Maintainer: East Pond Trail

    "Through winter-time we call on spring/And through the spring on summer call/And when abounding hedges ring/Declare that winter's best of all/And after that there's nothing good/Because the spring-time has not come... William Butler Yeats

  12. #12
    Senior Member erugs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Manchester, NH
    Quote Originally Posted by dentonfabrics View Post
    There's helmuts for everything else, why not hiking?

    Dentonfabrics - I walk into trees a lot, especially those that are hanging across the trail, which is why I most always wear a ball cap with a good size, solid bill.

    Volunteer Maintainer: East Pond Trail

    "Through winter-time we call on spring/And through the spring on summer call/And when abounding hedges ring/Declare that winter's best of all/And after that there's nothing good/Because the spring-time has not come... William Butler Yeats

  13. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Several years ago I had what could have been a fatal accident on, of all places, the Norwottuck Rail Trail.
    The temps were in the 90's and it was very humid. I debated with myself whether of not I should wear my helmet. It saved my life.
    The accident happened in one of the concrete tunnels. I was in my lane and ayoung boy, approx 10 years of age, was daydreaming and hit me head on. I was knocked off my bike and my head slammed with considerable force into the concrete wall of the tunnel. I walked away with nothing more than an injury to my thumb and a sore neck.
    I don't dwell on the possibility of sustaining a head injury but I do take the necessary precautions to try to avoid one. I am cautious on rocky terrain and I would rather take my time so as not to do myself in on slick rocks or roots.
    I have used up too many of my "9 LIVES" and I would sooner not run out of them.

  14. #14
    Senior Member dr_wu002's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Kill Kaso, MA
    There was this thread a few years ago:

    -Dr. Wu
    To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.
    -Thomas Paine

  15. #15
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Very sad event.

    I wear a helmet skiing, biking and climbing. The Time article on Richardson made the point I make all the time to people: We're designed to withstand front end collisions at our top running speed. So you can run into a tree at 15 mph, and probably not die (although it would hurt, and I'm not going to test it). Anytime you put yourself in a situation outside that envelope, you are at risk.

    What are the ways to go outside the envelope?

    Speed - skiing, biking, climbing (leader fall), motorcycling, buttsliding, etc. all allow you to go faster than you can run. If there's any risk of hitting something hard, you should wear a helmet.

    Fast moving objects - climbing / mountaineering (rockfall / icefall), hiking in areas with rockfall, etc.

    Non frontal collisions - Your forehead is tough, because you are designed to run into things. The same impact elsewhere on your head is outside the envelope. When you are walking, hiking, running, and you fall, there are a lot of natural instincts that protect your head. But if you introduce technology that causes you to fall in an unnatural way (skis, bikes, climbing ropes), all bets are off.

    So those are some situations to consider wearing a helmet. (Like Stash, I don't wear a helmet indoor climbing: top rope (no speed); no loose rocks at the top of the "cliff.")

    Interestingly, in the standard beginners skiing fall (skis slip out, fall on butt, then onto back of head), the impact has very little to do with the speed the skier is going. On a flat beginners trail, almost all the momentum for the vector into the surface comes from how tall you are, and how far you fall vertically. Your speed parallel to the surface has almost no contribution, as long as the surface is relatively smooth.

    Ironically, as long as the surface is smooth, and you don't hit a fixed object, or tumble, falls on very steep slopes will result in lower impacts than falls on flatter slopes (experienced fallers know this instinctively). On a very steep slope, only a part of the momentum vector from falling due to gravity resolves into the component normal to the surface (in "non-nerd," "you don't hit as hard because you slide.").

    One of the most variable factors increasing injury potential is how hard the surface is. On ice or very hard snow, even minor falls can result in injury. In deep powder, you can often take amazing crashes and get up laughing. It would be interesting (albeit morbid) to know what the surface condition was at the spot where Richardson's head hit.


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