Although the curve of the Covid 19 pandemic is flattening, pressure on the NHS is likely to continue for some time to come. As orthopaedic surgeons we are urging people to consider how they could avoid sustaining trauma-related injuries (fractures, strains, sprains and ruptures) during this time, both for their own benefit and that of the NHS.
Normal pathways and facilities for treating trauma injuries are currently more limited or in some circumstances unavailable, due to the additional pressures caused by the virus and the fact that private medical practices have put all non-essential work on hold to be able to offer support to the NHS.
This means, with only the most crucial life or limb-saving surgery being prioritised, if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a serious trauma injury during the current crisis, your treatment options will be more limited. You may be offered conservative treatments – such as casts or traction – but if you need surgery you might have to wait for a potentially long time. This could delay your recovery and prevent you from resuming your normal activities (or as many of them as are possible during lockdown!).
The maxim “prevention is better than cure” has never been more true than it is right now. Not all accidents are avoidable, of course, but there are some things you can do to minimise your risk of serious injury.
1. Be aware of your safety
If time at home is an opportunity for you to do a spot of DIY, be careful to observe proper Health and Safety guidelines. The Federation of Master Builders offers the following advice to DIYers:
- Keep your workspace tidy, clean and well-organised and any equipment locked away.
- Use protective clothing when necessary (gloves and boots).
- Assess when you may need specialist assistance (gas, electrics or dangerous materials like asbestos). This may have to wait until after lockdown.
- Be careful when working up a ladder.
- Be mindful of risks to children, pets or neighbours.
2. Avoid activities with high injury risk
Accidents can happen anywhere, but certain activities carry a higher risk of injury and are best avoided if possible. Pushing yourself during an online fitness class or suddenly starting to run long distances during your daily outdoor exercise, for instance, could lead to injuries like sprains, strains and stress fractures. Even gardening can cause injuries if you do too much. Building up gradually and stopping when your body feels tired are important things to remember when doing any kind of physical activity.
3. Keep an eye on children
It’s not just adults who risk getting injured at home. Children can also sustain trauma injuries, particularly if they are doing things like trampolining, horse riding, motocross or climbing trees. It’s natural for them to want to let off steam while they cannot go to school but keep an eye on the sort of things they are doing and try to discourage riskier activities.
4. Watch out for poor technique
If you have decided to take up a new form of exercise during lockdown, make sure you follow online training videos from a reputable instructor. Poor technique is one of the most common reasons for people getting injured doing sport. Continuing to practice when you are tired and ignoring pain are other significant factors.
5. Seek medical help if you need to
The number of people seeking urgent medical help has fallen significantly during the lockdown. If you do sustain a serious injury it is important to seek medical help in case you have developed a fracture or serious sprain. Continuing to use a damaged limb could result in long-term damage. Less serious injuries can be treated at home using rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE method).
Observe government guidelines
Please only undertake exercise that observes current rules on social distancing and if you are in one of the high risk groups, it is important to stay indoors as instructed by the government: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus