Recreational injuries in Washington state national parks

Wilderness Environ Med. 2005 Winter;16(4):192-7. doi: 10.1580/1080-6032(2005)16[192:riiwsn];2.


Objectives: The objectives of this study were to identify the number and types of recreational injuries sustained by visitors to Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park in Washington State and to compare the nature of injuries sustained by children compared with adults.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed case incident reports obtained by rangers in Mount Rainer National Park and Olympic National Park between 1997 and 2001. Data collected included victim age, gender, date of injury, activity preinjury, type of injury, and mechanism of injury.

Results: There were 535 cases of recreational wilderness injuries (including 19 total deaths), yielding a rate of 22.4 injuries per million visits. The mean age of injury victims was 34 years. Males were more likely to sustain injury than were females (59% vs 41%). Most injuries occurred during summer months between noon and 6:00 PM, and 90% occurred during daylight hours. The most common preinjury activities included hiking (55%), winter sports (15%), and mountaineering (12%), and the most common types of injuries included sprains, strains and soft tissue injuries (28%), fractures or dislocations (26%), and lacerations (15%). A total of 121 (23%) of the injuries occurred in children (<18 years of age). There were 19 deaths in the 2 national parks (18 men, 1 woman); all victims were adults. Hiking (58%) and mountaineering (26%) were the most common activities at the time of death. Mechanism of death included falls (37%), medical (eg, myocardial infarction) (21%), drowning (5%), and suicide (5%).

Conclusions: The most common type of injury was soft tissue injury, and injuries occurred most commonly while hiking, during daylight hours, and in the summer. Preinjury activities and types of injuries were different in children compared with adults. Knowledge of how and when injuries occur in national parks can assist in determining what resources are needed to help provide a safer environment for park visitors. This study may also aid prevention strategies in the national parks, guide training of rangers, aid in the preparation of first aid kits, and further the education of people who participate in wilderness activities.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Cause of Death*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Morbidity*
  • Recreation
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sports
  • Washington / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*