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OH: Hunter's tree-stand fall highlights common risk

October 31, 2010

Hunter's tree-stand fall highlights common risk

A McConnelsville farmer was at home with his 10-year-old daughter recently when he headed out to check the tree stands he uses when hunting deer.

In particular, Ron Horn wanted to look over a 20-foot-high free-standing platform that he'd built and recently moved, to make sure it was in good order before his six sons set out with their bows to hunt in rural Morgan County.

When he got there, a rope he uses to lift his bow or rifle into the stand was missing. At the top of the stand, he discovered that his safety harness also was gone.

Horn, who is 64, began to climb down an hour later. As he threw his bow over one shoulder, his hand slipped against the stand's rain-slick wood and he fell to the ground. He broke his spine and seven ribs and shattered his femur at the hip. Falls from tree stands are the most-common cause of Ohio hunters' injuries. The risk was long recognized by hunting-safety experts but recently was documented in a study of the 130 hunters treated at Ohio State University and Grant medical centers between 1998 and 2007.

"I think the traditional belief about hunting-related injuries is you get shot by a hunting buddy or your own weapon accidentally discharges," said Dr. Charles Cook, the OSU trauma surgeon who led the study.

The study found that half of injuries were from falls, and 29 percent were from gunshots. Falls from tree stands often resulted in spinal fractures or fractures in the lower body. Alcohol was involved in less than 3percent of falls, and drugs in less than 5 percent.

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