LA CROSSE, Wis. — Tree stand injuries are common throughout the hunting season. In fact, a study by the International Hunter Education Association found that one in every three hunters who hunts from a tree stand will fall at some point in their hunting career. Eric Grube, emergency medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System — and avid hunter — says with archery and crossbow deer hunting in full swing and gun season approaching, it's time to re-establish safety practices to prevent accidents from occurring.

"These injuries can easily be avoided if hunters use caution and common sense," Dr. Grube says. "Multiple injuries and even death can result from falling asleep, slipping while climbing in or out of the stand and having faulty equipment." Dr. Grube emphasizes the use of the safety harness. "It's a necessary yet simple, preventative measure all hunters can and should use. When using a safety harness, make sure it's fully secured," he says. He also suggests if you have an older style waist harness, consider purchasing a chest or five-point harness, as these provide better support through the upper body and reduce chance of internal organ injuries.

The Tree Stand Manufactures Association states that 82 percent of hunters who fall from tree stands are not wearing full body harnesses.

Mayo Clinic Health System also suggests these simple safety tips:

Assess tree stand placement.Selecting trees that are substantial enough to hold the hunter's weight is critical. Hunters also should choose trees that are visibly alive, standing straight and have coarse-type bark for gripping purposes. Never place stands on utility poles or other smooth surfaces for risk of slipping.

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Count your contact points.Always have three points of contact on the tree while climbing in and out of the stand: either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand at all times. The fewer contact points, the higher risk of falling and injury.

Do not forget firearm safety.As obvious as it may be, it's still easy to forget basic tree stand safety precautions. Hunters should never climb with a bow or firearm in their hand. This can take away an important contact point while moving up or down the tree. When raising or lowering a bow or firearm, hunters must make sure it's unloaded, points down and the safety is engaged.

Educate yourself.Anyone planning to use a tree stand this season should consider a simple 15-minute online safety course. The Tree Stand Manufacturers Association provides a free, interactive course for all to prevent tree stand injuries.


Ankle sprains: Pain free does not mean normal

The American College of Sports Medicine says 25,000 people sprain their ankles every day in the United States. Some of those injuries recover over time on their own — or do they? A recent New York Times article sites studies that confirm what Mayo Clinic experts have known for a while. Ankle sprains are not simple injuries. Without proper training of muscles to support the joint after a sprain, ankles can easily be re-injured.

Mayo Clinic researchers did two studies related to this idea. Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine specialist Dr. Edward Laskowski says one study finds that after an ankle sprain, muscles don't contract normally, leading to instability. The other study shows that people who participated in a training program after ankle sprain had improved stability. He says, "Pain free does not mean normal. Without training after an ankle sprain, you might not get the protection from future injury."

If you sprain your ankle, Dr. Laskowski recommends a consultation with a Sports Medicine professional or physical therapist who can suggest exercises to strengthen the muscles around the joint.

Dr. Laskowski says exercise the following types of exercises are key to recovery and prevention.

• Stand on the floor and balance on one leg

• As balance improves, stand on one leg while doing a task such as reading or bouncing a ball

• Stand on one leg on a foam pillow

— Mayo Clinic News Network