Today is an unofficial holiday in the state of Pennsylvania…the first day of firearms deer season! Approximately, 750,000 hunters from age 12 to seniors will hike through the woods in search of a whitetail.
While I am not a hunter, I am an avid outdoors person with great passion for mountain biking, kayaking, whitewater rafting, hiking and mountain climbing in our state and national parks. With this in mind, I offer hunter safety tips based on the knowledge of experts in the field and offer health safety associated with outdoor activity based on my expertise as a health care provider. Good luck and be safe!
Common Health Problems for Hunters:
- Chest Pain/Shortness of Breath – overweight and deconditioned people must be very careful when overexerting themselves in the woods while hunting. This is even truer for those with a history of heart disease. Make sure you take your medication and drink plenty of fluids while hunting. Eat a good breakfast with a balance of protein and carbohydrates. A bagel with peanut butter is a good quick start. Pack healthy snacks and water to sustain you.
- Knee Pain- in the front of the knee or knee cap is common with hunting. This can happen from excessive hiking on uneven or hilly terrain in the woods, especially if there is weakness in the leg muscles.
- Neck, Lower or Middle Back Pain- can be caused prolonged hiking with a heavy load or prolonged sitting in a tree stand in slouched positions, especially if one has tight hamstrings. Field dressing and carrying the deer out of the woods is also very stressful on the back. Take multiple breaks and stretch backwards, (the opposite direction of bending over to drag the deer)
- Shoulder Pain- can occur from recoil of a shotgun.
- Hamstring Pain- can occur if the muscle is tight or weak. Prolonged walking, and bending over can contribute to this problem.
- Ilio-Tibial Band Pain- when walking on the side of a hill there is a difference in the length of the legs. Overtime, this can lead to pain on the outside of the hip and leg.
- Foot Numbness or Pain- can occur from prolonged squatting or poorly fitted shoes/boots. However, lower back pain can also be associated with these symptoms.
- Hand Numbness or Pain- can be caused by repeated recoil of the gun on the shoulder. Also, this may be associated with prolonged pressure of a shoulder strap or leaning on something under the arm.
Preparing Your Body for Hunting
- Prevention is the best management of most musculoskeletal and safety problems associated with hunting. First, one can prevent many of the above problems through proper fitting of equipment, clothing and shoes/boots.
- Be sure to maintain a fairly good fitness level in order to hunt safely. Begin an exercise and walking program 2-3 months before hunting season. If you are a beginner, start slowly. Warm up and slowly walk for 10 to 15 minutes and build up over time. Slowly add hills to your walking program.
- Wear your hunting clothing, such as boots to break them in while walking for exercise. Drytech clothing instead of cotton can keep you warm and wick moisture away from the body.
- Work on good strength and flexibility of the quadriceps, calf and gluteal muscles. Instead of using the elevator, climb stairs throughout the day to work these muscles.
- Be careful not to progress too quickly because a drastic change from inactivity to over activity in a short period of time can create problems.
- Remember, hunting should be fun! Pain from poorly fitted and improperly maintained equipment and clothing can be avoided with good planning. Moreover, injury and death from inactivity and poor fitness is also preventable.
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: email@example.com
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.