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Hidden July 4th Threats

Topics: fourth of july, sports medicine, emergency medicine,



Happy Fourth of July!  But will it be a safe one?

A Consumer Products Safety Commission study shows a 65% increase in the number of fireworks-related injuries last year over the previous year.  That’s eight deaths and an estimated 11,400 people who were injured by fireworks in 2013. The GW Medical Faculty Associates wants you to be safe this Independence Day.  But fireworks are not the greatest July 4th safety concern.


“Of the myriad of injuries we see in the emergency room, only a few are related to fireworks,” says Dr. Bruno Petinaux, The GW Medical Faculty Associates Emergency Medicine physician and head of GW Hospital’s Emergency Preparedness. “Most July 4th injuries are the result of irresponsible behavior like drinking and driving or drinking alcohol and swimming.”


For more than a decade, the US Park Police and the National Park Service have been enforcing an Independence Day ban on alcohol on the National Mall.  No beer, no wine, no alcohol at all. The result has been a sharp drop in emergency room admissions among National Mall celebrants to GW Hospital.  But Dr. Petinaux’s emergency room experience reveals that holiday weekends still tend to be a time when people might be drinking alcohol and becoming intoxicated.


“Whether you’re from out of town, in a big crowd, or unfamiliar in the Nation’s Capital and you have a car accident while suddenly changing lanes,” Dr. Petinaux says, “being intoxicated can lead to poor decision-making.”   In 2012, more than 10,300 people died in drunk driving crashes in the US - one person every 51 minutes according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Dr. Petinaux reminds us all, “The holiday should not be an excuse for being irresponsible.”


Whether alcohol consumption is involved or not, nice weather conditions can also fuel holiday injuries. “We’re expecting nicer weather in DC on July 4th and that amplifies the number of injuries we see in the ER.  More people will be involved in outdoor activities and outdoor activities mean outdoor injuries and sport-related injuries.” Nearly 2 million people every year, many of whom are otherwise healthy, suffer sports-related injuries and receive treatment in emergency departments.


Some tips for avoiding an emergency room visit during the July 4th holiday include:

  • Avoid alcoholic drinks while staying fully hydrated
  • Warm up gradually before engaging in any sporting activities
  • Don’t overdo it if it’s a physically activity you haven’t done in a while
  • Properly cool down / stretch and stay hydrated afterwards   

If you’re facing an emergency medical situation, call 911 immediately.  Once the emergency is managed and you want to see a specialist to help get you back on your feet ASAP, The GW Medical Faculty Associates Sports Medicine providers are here to help.  One practice for the whole person.  To make an appointment, please call (202) 741-3300.