Learn to predict and prevent injuries

Toronto (May 14, 2003) - As you plan for the Victoria Day long weekend, take some time to make smart choices about your activities - to keep you, your family and friends injury-free.

That's the message from two leading Canadian organizations with expertise in injury-prevention and treatment of traumatic injuries.

Over the holiday weekend, more people will be travelling and there will be heightened activity on land and water, which can lead to an increase in injuries.

Drivers should be aware that every year, provinces like Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia record one of the highest rates of fatal motor vehicle collisions on the Victoria Day long weekend.

This weekend also heralds the second highest level of yearly injuries associated with fireworks, with boys aged 10 to 14 years sustaining the most injuries.

And outdoor enthusiasts should note that May sees a high drowning rate, partly because a personal flotation device is not always worn, but also because the water is cold enough that movement and breathing are difficult, and hypothermia can set in quickly.

"Listen to that little voice inside, telling you to be sensible," says Dr. Cathy Craven, a physician and researcher specializing in spinal cord injuries at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Canada's largest provider of adult rehab services. "Take common-sense precautions to avoid injuries."

Steve McPherson, 40, broke his neck diving into a friend's swimming pool. It's believed he hit his head on the edge of the pool. "If it could happen to me diving into a backyard pool, it could happen to anybody," says the Toronto man, who was a lifeguard at the time. He is completely paralyzed below the neck.

"Don't be a hermit, but be cautious and calculate risks before you take them. And be willing to live with the consequences. You could alter your life forever," he says.

Most injuries are predictable and preventable, says Catherine Clark of SMARTRISK, a national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing injuries and saving lives. "The key to preventing injuries is learning how to make smart choices. We don't tell people to stop taking risks, but we do encourage them to think before they act to make sure they're taking the smartest risk possible. That way, they can continue to enjoy life to the fullest."

Not all risks are obvious, points out Dr. Mark Bayley, medical director of Toronto Rehab's neuro rehabilitation program. While most serious head injuries come from motor vehicle crashes, simple falls - off bikes, roller blades or even just walking - account for as much as 30 per cent of brain injuries, he says.

Here are some tips from SMARTRISK and Toronto Rehab to help you keep safe while having fun this weekend - and throughout the summer:

  • In the car, the best protection is to buckle up, and adjust your headrest. But don't forget to buckle up your bike helmet or personal flotation device too, says Clark. "Buckles are there to help keep us injury-free, but they won't help unless we use them."
  • Drive sober. Alcohol doesn't mix with driving, cycling, boating, swimming or any activity that requires a clear head and the ability to respond quickly and safely. But drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. "Dehydration can affect reaction time," says Dr. Bayley. "If you get overheated, your chance of injury increases."
  • Water sports are as much a part of summer as biking and blading. Remember to look first before you leap, says Dr. Craven. "Two-thirds of sports-related spinal cord injuries are from diving."
  • If you're in a pool or lake, on a motorcycle, bicycle, scooter, rollerblades or skateboard, wear the gear, including a helmet or personal flotation device. "Helmets and life jackets aren't just for kids; they save the lives of thousands of adults every year," says Clark.
  • Whether you're learning to ride a motorcycle, drive a new lawnmower or working on your backstroke, get trained. Notes Clark, "Even simple activities require proper training - make sure you understand what you're doing before you start."


SMARTRISK is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to preventing injury with smart thinking. It promotes a variety of injury prevention programs such as SMARTRISK Heroes, SNOWSMART, and the Stupid Line campaign.

Toronto Rehabilitation Institute

The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute is Canada's largest hospital that provides adult rehabilitation services and complex continuing care. As a fully affiliated teaching and research hospital of the University of Toronto, Toronto Rehab is advancing rehabilitation knowledge and practice.

Media Contact

Phone: 416 340 4636
Email: UHN.News@uhn.ca

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