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    any ideas about using a snowboard to pull traction on a broken femor or tib-fib, i know ski poles will work, but what if you only have a snowboard?


    Hey Troweller,

    I’d imagine there are a number of folks on this board with heeps more applied experience, but I did take a WFR course last year and got to spend some time learning how to do this.

    First, as I learned, traction splints are reserved for femur breaks only – no tib-fib action.

    So, to answer your question related to femur breaks, I would imagine it is technically possible, but I would not count on it as “covering you”. I just don’t think it would work well. Your main challenge is the length of the board. You need to anchor at the hip and have your splint extend 6 to 12 inches beyond the foot. I would definitely split the board and probaby use a skin or duct tape to secure an anchor point near the hip. Situated properly, you would still have a lot of ski/board sticking up towards the shoulder though. This would make evacuation, especially with a rigged sled, pretty challenging. In the end, this set up would be better than nothing if you were faced with your buddy bleeding to death while you had to go get help.

    Some other options are:

    1) A tree branch cut to size with the trusty Swiss Army saw. I actually did this in my class and it worked great.

    2) While I doubt you would be traveling with a tent sans ski poles – tent poles can substitute.

    And if you really want to be dialed, check the link below. It’s basically a collapsible tent pole with everything ready to go. I also played with this same device. It is light and worked great.

    All gadgets aside, one thing I took away from that class was that creativity and resourcefulness are key to wilderness first aid. You have to think outside the box. It could be as simple as extra party members holding manual traction while you get help. No widgets required…although someone is going to get tired!



    Like JC said, traction splints are for mid femur breaks only. I dont think a snowboard would really make a very good splint either, unless it was a split taped to both sides of the leg. Plus when you splint an injury like that your supposed to immobileise the joint above and below the site of the injury too, and having a snowboard strapped to a leg would make that hard too, since a femur fracture pretty much requires backboarding if possible.


    Another side note:

    Once you pull traction you should not release traction on the femur until the patient is in the care of trained professionals. Releasing the tension on the broken bone could lead to severing the artery.

    If I remember correctly, you should not even pull traction unless you think you can rig it to continue pulling traction.

    I think the board would best serve you as a sled for getting the patient out of the BC. As stated before, you should probably use some sticks/branches and straps off of your pack to immobilize the joins above and below the break.


    In my WFR class (1 1/2 yrs ago), we were told that in general you don’t traction a femur in the field, Exceptions may be made, but we were told that the general consensus is that most field traction systems are not very effective and that your time and energy are better spent warming and comforting your patient and preparing to evacuate.
    I’m curious to hear what others have been taught and even more curious to hear about actual experiences.


    I think that you supposed to pull traction if bones are sticking out body.
    How would someone use a snowboard for a sled/litter in evacuating a patient? What types of Emergency Gear do people bring with them anyway?


    Paulster – I took my course last spring and was taught the technique and certainly came away with the impression that it would help if done properly. You bring up a good point though about the reliablity of improvised traction. You don’t want to do more harm than good, so without a solid splint to anchor off of, I could see going the route you discussed. If I had a ski pole or good branch to work with, and the patient was showing signs of internal bleeding, I think I would go for it. Especially if we were deep in the b/c.

    Troweller – Like mentioned above, when it comes to using a traction splint, I learned that this was reserved for a mid-femur break only. There are times where an attempt to gently realign a break could be done though. I was taught that you consider it for angulated breaks which are generally accompanied by comprimised CSM (circulatroy, sensory and motor function.) A realignment could include pulling exposed bone under the skin. There were a lot of little rules to follow if you did this – cleaning it properly, noting it was an open wound in your run sheet, etc. At least this is what I remember…

    I haven’t seen an improvised litter using a solid board. I’d love to have someone explain it if it is possible. There are some good techniques with skis that could certainly apply to a split.


    My emergency gear:
    misc dressings and bandages
    Triangle bandage
    duct tape
    Big safety pins
    drugs: Ibu, aspirin (can’t beat it in the field for a heart attack), Lortab, Tums, lomotil, cough drops, benadryl, prednisone (sp?)
    Double caffeine gu shots (magic when you need to keep going regardless)
    space blanket
    extra superlight down jacket
    Extra mittens
    voile straps
    bandage scissors
    lighter & TP
    LED headlamp
    Cell phone
    Sharpy pen to record any meds on board and vitals on an evac victim’s forehead
    Almost all of my touring is done within a few hours of help, so I figure this will get me through broken bones, severe bleeding, and many hours of waiting for a rescue. I’d certainly carry more if I were days from help. I should have a cpr mask but have been too lazy to toss one in and too lucky to need it so far. I can improvize a lot with poles, tree branches, my pack, etc.
    Curious to hear what others carry.


    Great question. A traction splint in the field, if you are properly trained, serves three purposes: eliminate pain, stablize bone, and elimate problems with blood flow/bleeding. It’s basically impossible to move patient or control pain without.

    You can put one end of the half splitboard (padded well) in the groin, then use webbing on the other end to pull traction on the ankle. Duct tape probably won’t work here. You can try splinting outside of leg, using webbing around hip or groin tied to one end of splitboard and using webbing on te opposite end. Either way, the biggest problem is a)the board is very long so evacuation is difficult and b)there are no holes in many splitboard to anchor webbing.

    Who’s traveling in the backcountry without poles? Poles are much easier to rig a femur traction splint with.



    I second docwild, Look at the components of the kendirick traction device that the link goes to. I bet you can rig those to work on a stout probe pole as well. better to use the board, a pad, branches to get your victim off the snow to maintain warmth because you probably aren’t going to add traction unless you are faced with a fairly lengthy evacuation.


    @docwild wrote:

    Either way, the biggest problem is a)the board is very long so evacuation is difficult and b)there are no holes in many splitboard to anchor webbing.

    Well, in theory if someone has a broken femur you should be immobilising the joints above and below the break, which would be the hip and knee. Backboarding someone in the BC would be a big problem too.
    As for when a traction split is approprate, I was taught to follow the rule of hands if the break is one hand space from each joint(hip or knee) you should use a traction splint. If you its closer than one hand space to a joint, you should use a normal splint.


    about 9 years ago in the BC my friend got slide into a tree and broke his femur. I did not make the traction device but some doctor/BC friends came and did. They used his ski’s(one splintered hitting the tree), webbing, and my leatherman.
    I did try to hold my friends foot in traction until the Dr.’s got there and that was one of the hardest things I have ever dealt with. My friend and I took turns pulling traction holding on to the heel and toe of his boot. At first it wasn’t bad, but after swapping off a few times it got hard. We would switch or just let off traction a little and our buddy would scream, no matter what. I felt like I had been climbing for hours and my arms were all pumped out. When the leg was in traction my friend could deal with it, but as soon as it was out, it was crazy pain. We did this for roughly an hour, it was hard. The hardest thing that I can remember about the deal was how long it took to get the helicopter there, effeing forever. We finally called some of our snowmobile buddies and they got there before lifeflight, pulled him to a safe pick up spot and then out in the heli. It was a very long day and I hope I never experience anything like it again.


    how did you drag him out with the snowmobile?


    a burrito tabagon that wrapped around him and then a guy used his skis to make shift attach the tabagon to the sled and then a guy skied behind the tabagon with a rope/thether. They had to go really slow and the tabagon kept bouncing behind the snowmobile hitting my friends leg. They pulled him about 3/4 of a mile and then the helicopter was able to get him from there.


    @paulster wrote:

    In my WFR class (1 1/2 yrs ago), we were told that in general you don’t traction a femur in the field, Exceptions may be made, but we were told that the general consensus is that most field traction systems are not very effective and that your time and energy are better spent warming and comforting your patient and preparing to evacuate.
    I’m curious to hear what others have been taught and even more curious to hear about actual experiences.

    In my Wilderness Medical Association WFT class last week they specifically said that you shouldn’t pull traction on a femur break in a wilderness situation if you can help it. It is too hard to maintain traction during an evacuation and you are likely to cut off blood supply and further damage the leg. They say the patient needs a vacuum cast and a rescue litter so it’s best to get a real evacuation together if at all possible.

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.


    Femur fractures are a life threatning injury. The victum may be bleeding out as a result of severing the femuoral artery (sic ?).
    If it happens while out in the wilderness you need to be flexible.
    You have to fall back on your training and ask if the victum may bleed out , how long till help arrives and what do you have to make a traction splint.

    As Ryon pointed out it will take a lot of effort, and once traction is applied you cant let go.
    Now In Ryon position …your partner is Screaming with pain and you pull traaction…Your partner stops scremimg

    Thats a pretty easy choice.—- you pull traction. Or if you are the only one with him…You make something to pull traction.

    Rely on your trainig

    Splits can be made of anything . They just have to Immoblize both sides of the break. And they need to support the broken area.

    So I would say every situation is different and levels of training are different. If you are with me Im going to do my best to improvise and pull traction because I have seen it in real life and know what a relief it will be for the victum. Now it may be that Im a Loong way from help. If I have to go for help I would try my best to do some type of traction pull and leave it in place . Because if I just go for help without trying I think the chances are the victum wont survive.

    Neck and spinal injuries are just as crucial. Its easy to kill someone by moving them without a backboard or c-collar. If you suspect neck or spinal injury I would make the victum as comfortable as possible and then go for help.
    I lost a cousin at 23 in an off road motor cycle accident. Neck injury and his friends tried to take him to the hospital. He died in route because of a neck injury and by moving him it caused the spinal cord to shut down his heart and Kidney functions. They did what they thought was right but it would have been better to let him lay and wait for a backboard.

    It depends on the situation, what you have avalible , and how far you are from help


    Tex, great input, as with so many others in this thread. I have seen situations in the field (nothing in the deep snowy bc) that show each injury is different and takes a different level of improvising or approach. I agree that pulling traction is tough and not always the right choice. If the injury is not unbearably painful traction may not be needed, such as in a femur fracture that has not shifted laterally and allowed the powerful quad and hamstring muscles to “shorten”. The femoral artery is also a serious concern, but if nicked internally with no open fracture you may never know this problem exists without carefully and constantly monitoring your partner’s blood flow return to the lower leg (pulses of the ankle, foot or toe nail bed blanching).

    Splints are critcal and probably are best made in the field from what you find or from your poles. The handle of a pole is large enough to take a spare mitten or glove to pad the crotch on the sorter side and then you can extend the second pole on the outer side. As many have stated, for a femur fx as in most other fractures you have to mobilize the break to above and below the nearest joints. For the femur this is of course the hip to the top, but you should go to the ankle or beyond below. Two properly placed ski poles with a belt fastening the long one above the hip will be a good start. If you were with me I would sacrice your skins to make wraps below the croch-above the break, below the break-above the knee, mid calf and ankle. If I need more skins, I would then sacrifice my own.

    As for the pulling of traction to realign, if this is the route you choose because of the situation it is best to create a pulling device so as not to have to do it manually. Real life testimony in this thread shows how tough it can be and if applied and released periodically it not only makes your buddy scream, but it could cost him that femoral artery in the movement. Even the best of friends must be superhuman to hold traction for an entire extraction rescue, my hats off to the two of you who did so until the helo arrived. Anyone should feel safer travelling with you.

    As for the exit, there are a lot of options, one of which is no exit but awaiting help. This may not be possible, or less promising. I often (now maybe always that this has my mind racing) travel with a gore-tex bivy sac. I once used one just like mine after splinting a crushed ankle. I padded and protected the splint and used this bivy as a sled to drag the guy out. That may be the hardest I have ever worked, and it was no pain free process for either of us. Much tougher with a femur, but using a joined splitboard and the bivy may make snow sledding a bit more possible.

    This is some crazy and serious shit. Thanks to all for the thought provoking thread, I thought my field emergency medical days were over, I guess the only thing that has changed is the “expected” type of injuries.

    Safety to all.

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