According to Dr. Ashish Mahajan, the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville received eight calls within the last year of left thumb injuries related to bow hunting, specifically with crossbows.
Dr. Mahajan added that a national study of hospitals reported that 40 percent of hand injuries sustained in bow hunting accidents result from improper use of the crossbow.
Although experience is an important factor in preventing injuries, Mahajan said even the most refined hunters can have a mishap.
We've seen some young women in the 20s with injuries from their first time out, but we've also seen hunters who have as much as 20 years of experience, he said. It only takes a split second to lose focus, that's why the safety mechanisms are so important.
According to Mahajan, most injuries result from the hunter's hands moving above the stock and into the path of the cable. The magnitude of the injuries is varied.
I seen injuries that have ranged from bruises to near amputation, he said.
Recovery time also depends on the extent of the injury, but injuries could potentially have long-term effects.
Treatment can include months to years of surgery to rehabilitate an injury that takes a split second to occur, Mahajan said.
Thumb injuries are more serious because of the reliance we have on that part of the hand.
The thumb accounts for about 40 percent of the use of our hand, Mahajan said. If you lose more than the first joint, it can be a problem.
According to Mahajan, studies have shown that injuries related to crossbows are becoming more common and bow hunting more popular.
He believes movies such as The Hunger Games and Snow White and the Huntsman have contributed to its spike in popularity.
Along with safety mechanisms on the weapons, Mahajan feels that education on proper use of the weapons should be a priority. He spoke with a representative for Lonesome Road Archery in Taylor who said safety is a matter of education.
They teach people how to properly use the weapons before taking them out of the store.
Dr. David Chan, a hand surgeon at Geisinger, reiterated the point that taking safety precautions is the best way to stay injury free.
Some minor injuries can be prevented by getting the right equipment, including arm guards and shooting gloves, along with having a mechanical release on a weapon.
He added simple things like making sure the bow string is not frayed or damaged and that the arrows are not cracked are overlooked.
A lot of injuries are cause by hunters failing to use common sense, Chan said.
According to Chan, he has treated quite a few wrist fractures this hunting season from when hunters fall out of tree stands.
It's important to follow the manufacture's guide on how to set it up, he said.
Chan added that hunters should wear a safety harness when they are assembling the stand and also when they are inside of the stand.
Chan stressed the importance of knowing the surrounds before firing a shot to ensure there aren't any hunters behind your target. He also said hunters should not target a deer on the top of a hill because they can not see what is over the horizon.