Play it "smart" on Victoria Day weekend

Learn to predict and prevent injuries

TORONTO, May 15 /CNW/ - 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
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
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
"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
- 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."

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.
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.


For further information: For questions or to arrange an interview,
please contact: Margaret Polanyi, Toronto Rehab, (416) 597-3422 x 3837;
Catherine Clark, SMARTRISK, (416) 596-2724