Last month, our company held the second annual Guardian Conference. A 3-day training event that provides plenty of live-fire range time. With hundreds of people on the range over two years, the odds are great that we would see at least some minor injuries, and we have. Treating injuries and medical conditions, no matter how small, is important. Here is why.
Prevent Future Infections —
First, left untreated, minor cuts or scrapes can become infected and lead to more serious problems later on. Last month at the conference, an instructor sliced the meaty portion of their palm open. When I got there, the instructor's hand was leaking a decent flow of blood.
We had trauma kits in every bay, and all the instructors also carried their own trauma kits. I stopped the bleeding by applying sterile gauze, direct pressure, and elevation. I was unsure if the avulsion would require stitches or not. Doc McLaughlin of Mountain Man Medical was our primary medical dude for the event, and was on his way, so I knew I could defer to him. Once he got there, he did his own evaluation, irrigated the injury, applied antibiotic ointment, and covered the injury with a dressing.
Doc told the instructor the injury may need a stitch or two, but said they could choose not to get stitches and monitor the injury over the next day. He could reevaluate the next morning and go from there. The instructor could have “rubbed some dirt on it” and continued, but why risk infection and other problems if you don't need to?
Low-Stress, Hands-On Practice —
Another reason treating minor injuries on the range is important is because the steps for treating a minor injury are the same as for more severe injuries. Learning how to assess a casualty with a non-life-threatening injury is much easier than testing your skills for the first time on someone who is bleeding out. You can apply M.A.R.C.H. process to any medical emergency, even a minor one.
So, what are your emergency trauma skills?
When was the last time you received any training on how to treat a minor or serious injury?
Emergency services can reach people in most areas within 5-10 minutes. But this is not always the case, and based on the injury, the person may not have that much time. So you don't need to be a trauma surgeon, but you absolutely can learn how to evaluate and provide emergency care and try to stabilize the patient until professionals take over.
If you have taken no training within the last year or two, please consider heading over to Mountain Man Medical and check out the Emergency Trauma Response course. It is free, so if you invest your time in watching the course, you'll gain skills that may save someone's life!
Mention Of Trauma Gear —
I think it's important to mention the importance of not only learning the skills to help in a medical emergency but also the tools. You absolutely should have a trauma kit with you anytime you're on the range. You simply can't rely on someone else to carry the gear for you, or the trauma kit supplied by the local range.
In the same way, you should have trauma gear in your vehicle, in your home and with you when you're hiking or hunting. The Emergency Trauma Response course explains what you should have in your trauma kit, and how to use the gear.
Minor Injuries as Indicators —
Sometimes, shooters get a minor injury because of improper firearm handling. If you've spent a lot of time on the range, you've likely seen someone grip a semi-auto handgun with their support hand thumb crossed over the primary hand thumb, positioning it behind the slide. If it doesn't get corrected, it usually results in a pretty decent injury. Recognizing the type of injury and helping the person can help prevent it from happening again.
Injuries and Safety —
It's important to treat and evaluate even minor injuries because it could be a safety issue for that person and others on the range. Someone with an injury may not grip the gun correctly, or the pain from the injury could cause them to focus on that, rather than maintaining safe gun handling. Evaluate the injury and the person and injury, to see if they should continue training, take a break, or call it quits for the day.
Less Obvious Conditions —
While this isn't a physical injury, heat exhaustion is a condition that can definitely become a medical emergency in more ways than one. First, heat exhaustion gone unchecked can lead to heat stroke, which is a serious condition. Second, someone with heat exhaustion may injure themselves or someone else because they have an altered mental state. Similar problems could arise if someone has not taken prescription medication, or maybe taken too much.
What about something simple, like a bee sting? We all know some people are allergic and gone untreated, the condition can get worse. Some people know they are allergic, some may not. Consider observing someone stung by an insect, even if they say they aren’t allergic.
The importance of developing the skills to help someone in a medical emergency and having the tools to do so extends way beyond the range. Medical emergencies happen all the time. Most are not life threatening, but it doesn't mean they aren't important. Because shooting guns comes with inherent risk, minor injuries on the range could lead to serious injuries later. We need to address and monitor all injuries.