Common Injuries That Threaten Survivalists


One thing survivalists must know is that even common and seemingly minor injuries and illnesses can be lethal to them in certain situations.

A twisted ankle may be no big deal in today's society, requiring only a pair of crutches and some bed rest, but when you are on the run in a survivalist situation, it could be lethal.

What could once be fixed with a minor surgery or extraction can easily turn into a raging infection. If you’re alone and injured in Armageddon, there will be no ambulance or life-flight. The only resources available to survivalists suffering from injuries or illnesses will be the items they have on hand and the medical skills they’ve accrued. In 2003 Aron Ralston was hiking alone in the Utah backcountry near Canyonlands National Park. As he descended into a secluded canyon, a boulder fell loose from above, pinning his right hand against the canyon wall. Trapped in a remote area with no one around, he waited six days before deciding to amputate his own arm to escape. If it hadn’t been for the knife that Ralston was carrying, which he described as “not a Leatherman, but what you’d get if you bought a $15 flashlight and got a free multi-use tool,” he would likely have been buzzard food.

Self-amputation can certainly be classified as a rare medical intervention, along with other misfortunes such as tooth extractions and fishing line stitches. And though there’s no way of telling what injuries or ailments you may confront, there’s plenty of data available to point us in the right direction. The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) specializes in teaching outdoor skills and wilderness medicine accompanying outdoor activities such as backpacking, whitewater rafting, and mountaineering. A recent study looked at the NOLS database of medical incidents (approximately 2,000 in total, divided into illnesses and injuries) from 2005 and 2010. Here are the top 10 injuries and illnesses that survivalists should watch out for:


Injuries Illnesses
 Strains and sprains – 45% Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea – 26%
Tooth and mouth injuries – 11% Flu-like illness – 14%
Broken/dislocated bones – 7% Genito-urinary issues – 10%
Flesh wounds – 7% Abdominal pain – 7%
Frostbite – 5% Allergic reactions – 5%


Outdoor survivalists are likely to encounter injuries which could severely hinder their ability to survive

Though this data focuses on injuries common in outdoor activities (data from atomic bombings would certainly look different), it illustrates a likely subset within the larger spectrum of unknown outcomes. Of course, appendicitis or a ruptured spleen would constitute a completely different type of medical emergency, but let’s assume that such illnesses are rare and hope there’s a competent doctor in your group. Since it’s impossible to prepare for everything, the best approach is a statistical one that considers the most probable scenarios and risks. In other words, when you hear hoofbeats, think horses and not zebras.

Check out our Survival 101 page for more tips and tricks on prepping and survivalism!



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