Falling out of a deer stand or tree stand is an all too common accident. Estimates are around 10% of hunters are injured annually and out of that 10 percent, 75% are from fixed tree stands. When a hunter falls out of a stand that is taller than 15 feet, an individual can reach a speed of 30 MPH. Of course this depends on the weight and height of the hunter. Many times, these injuries are underreported due to embarrassment and hubris. I personally treat about one deer hunting injury per year. Most injuries result from either falling out of a stand or a substantial laceration from a broad head or hunting knife used when dressing the deer.
A study out of Wisconsin tracked deer stand injuries and revealed 80 % of all fall victims required operative interventions. About 10 % resulted in permanent and or neurological deficits or death. The majority where from poorly assembled stands, errors in climbing in or out of the stand and lack of harness.
A retrospective study out of Rochester , N.Y. Medical Center from 2003-2011 reveled the following: 54 tree stand injuries, 96% occurred in men, average age 47.9, average height of the fall 18 feet, no deaths out of the 54. Reported cause of injury of the 54: 1. Tree stand construction failure. 2. Loss of balance. 3. Falling asleep. 4. Safety harness broke. 5. Lightheadedness. Important to note – None of the 54 had alcohol which is often a common stereotype.
Most common injuries were spinal fractures, with the cervical spine being the most common. Vertebral burst fractures, compression fractures and dislocations. 22% had head injuries and 5 of the 54 had facial lacerations. 7 hunters had loss of consciousness. There were 10 cases with a collapsed lung (pneumothorax), 25% had a laceration to their liver, spleen or kidney. The average height of fall was approximately 18 feet.