Managing Broadhead and Knife Injuries When Hunting
Author: Jimmy Gruenewald PA-C, MPAS, FP-C
With September just a few weeks away, many of us are feeling anxious and finalizing our preparations for a new hunting season. A properly tuned and razor sharp broadhead and set of sharpened knives can make for a successful season of hunting, however, there are common injuries that can occur while preparing for a hunt. Broadhead and knife injuries are by far some of the most common injuries hunters face in the backcountry. It can happen to both the novice and the trained hunter, and one wrong move could put your entire season in jeopardy.
If you find yourself in this situation there are a few things you need to do immediately:
Stop the Bleeding
- If there is a large amount of bright red bleeding or the bleeding is pulsatile in nature (i.e. squirting) this may indicate an injury to an artery. This is exactly why I always carry a tourniquet in the backcountry. Place a tourniquet approximately 2” to 3” above the wound and turn the windless device until the bleeding stops.
- If the bleeding is minimal or not pulsating out, the bleeding can be controlled with direct pressure. I prefer to use compressed gauze that can be placed directly onto the wound. You want to apply as much pressure as you can to compress the vessels surrounding the injury enough to allow your body’s clotting abilities to take over. If you do not have a dressing, the remaining dressing can be either wrapped around the wound or reinforced with another dressing, shirt, or securing device of your choice
Clean the Wound
- Once back to your camp it is important to clean the wound. This is best done with water (preferably purified by boiling or drinking water). This will help prevent infection and wash out any foreign material.
- Do not use drinking alcohol (bourbon, whiskey, beer, etc.). Although it does contain alcohol, it also contains sugar which will attract bacteria and lead to infection.
- Once the wound is cleaned it is important to cover it. This can be done with a bandage, band-aid or even tape. Putting a barrier between the injury and the environment prevents infection.
When to Seek Further Care
- The cut is large and is gaping.
- You have a loss of function or significant pain with movement.
About the Author:
Jimmy Gruenewald is a former US Army Special Operations Physician Assistant with 6 combat deployments to multiple austere environments. He currently works in Emergency Medicine and practices at a Level 2 Trauma Center and several Critical Access Hospitals. He and his wife Aimee run Orion Medical Consulting, LLC (www.orionmedical.org)which specializes in wilderness medicine education and preparedness.