Majority of hunters who fall from tree stands suffer spinal injuries

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Researchers in Wisconsin say that spinal injuries account for more than half of the injuries that occur to hunters after falling from a tree stand.

A review of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics' trauma database for tree stand-related injuries from 1999 to 2013 shows 55 percent resulted in one or more spinal injuries, Wisconsin Public Radio reported .

"Entering and exiting the tree stand is a very frequent time for people to fall because you're in that transition period ... We had a couple people who made it all the way into the tree stand and had a loss of consciousness," said Dr. Kimberly Hamilton, who conducted the study with Dr. Nathaniel Brooks and Dr. Brandon Rocque.

The study that also found 7 out of 117 patients admitted to using alcohol the day of their accident.

"We thankfully had very few patients in our study who had been intoxicated prior to climbing into their tree stand. The one factor that stood out (as a potential contributing cause to the fall) was that out of 117 patients, only four reported any use of a safety harness," said Hamilton.

The study shows that spinal injuries ranged from mild to severe. Five hunters who fell from tree stands during the 14-year period examined had injuries that resulted in paralysis.

There are no laws that require a safety harness be used in tree stands, but it's highly recommended. A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources survey shows a majority of hunters use them.

Hunter education specialist for the DNR, Brenda VonRueden, said that 84 percent of hunters use tree stands during the nine-day Wisconsin gun deer season, and 97 percent use tree stands during the archery season.

"We don't recommend using homemade stands," VonRueden said. "We'd rather they use a stand from the Tree Stand Manufacturers Association, a ladder stand or a climbing stand. Not the old wooden stands that are (held together) by nails."

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