Have you ever wondered how to use a SAM Splint? Of course you have, that's why you're reading this. Because as you probably know...
SAM Splints can be literal life savers in emergencies but understanding the best way to use them and in what situations is not always clear.
So in this post I detail 6 different uses for them so whatever type of injury you find yourself with you can hopefully benefit from having a SAM Splint to hand.
As a reminder first...
What is a SAM Splint?
Just in case you're not even sure what it is...
A SAM splint is the shortened name for a structural aluminum malleable splint. It is lightweight and can be manipulated to fit any body part.
It is designed to be transportable yet effective at immobilizing soft tissue and bone injuries temporarily.
SAM splints are made of 0.41mm strips of soft aluminium covered in a closed-cell polyethene foam.
It was created by a veteran who served in the Vietnam War, named Sam Scheinberg. It is said to be modelled after a chewing gum wrapper and is packaged rolled up to be compact.
Once unfolded, it can be molded to anyone’s body to effectively hold the injury still until proper medical assistance can be reached. The splints are washable and reusable and come in various sizes.
Standard SAM splints are around 36 inches long and 4¼ inches wide. You can cut the SAM splint to make it fit whatever it is required for.
It does not interact with X-rays and they are also used on the International Space Station due to how lightweight they are. Some people say SAM stands for ‘Space Aviation Medicine’ due to this.
They are cheap, easy to use, waterproof, heatproof, and washable. For these reasons, SAM splints should be a staple element in any good outdoor first aid kit.
Here's 6 different ways to use a SAM splint...
How To Use A SAM Splint: 6 Different Ways
1. On The Elbow
Fold the splint in half, and then fold this half back on itself to create a long edge and a shorter, double-layered one.
Tuck the short, double-layered end under your arm, close to your body - as if tucking into your armpit. Lay the long edge along the back of your upper arm to support it.
Using a second SAM splint, fold this in half and run along the length of your forearm. The splints should interlock where the first was folded, behind your arm.
The SAM splints should form an L-shape encasing your elbow.
Wrap the splint in bandages, plastic wrap, or whatever you have on hand to secure it.
2. On The Wrist
Fold the SAM splint in half. Keeping your elbow bent and your forearm straight, place the splint underneath the forearm.
Keep the bent end under your palm and gently tuck your fingers around the end.
Pinch the splint at the elbow to create a dip to hold the joint in. Place some padding underneath your wrist - this can either be medical grade or something as simple as a sock to provide some cushioning.
Wrap the splint and your arm up tightly. Start with your wrist and wrap up the forearm to the elbow.
Work your way back down and go past your wrist, covering up to your knuckles with bandages to keep the splint secure.
3. On The Knee
Knee injuries result in either a bent or a straight leg, and it is best to leave the leg in whichever position it falls into naturally.
For straight legs, you will need 2 SAM splints to secure. Fold the splints in half and pull the sides apart slightly to create a flat, narrow V shape. Tape the splints to themselves to hold this shape.
Curve the edges of each slightly so they better fit the leg. Place one splint at either side of the leg, ensuring the patient’s knee is in the center. Fit the splints to their leg, and wrap well to secure.
For bent legs, you will also need 2 SAM splints. Bend the splints in the center to form a long C shape. Pad either side of the patient’s knee well. Lay the SAM splints either side of the knee, leaving excess at the top to bend over.
Wrap the splints around the top of the knee cap. Wrap tightly with bandages or plastic wrap to secure.
4. On The Ankle
There are 2 types of ankle sprains - weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing.
For weight-bearing injuries, we suggest wrapping the ankle inside your shoe to provide support without making the patient immobile. This method is known as the stirrup.
Flatten out the SAM splint and place the arch of the foot in the center. Pull the shoe’s insole out and place on the splint under the foot. Wrap the splint up the shin diagonally, as if you were tying ballet shoes.
Do this one side at a time to ensure it is secure. Place the foot back in the shoe and seek medical assistance if necessary.
If the injury is not weight-bearing, or you are unable to remove the shoe to do the splint technique above, it is done inside the shoe. Begin by placing the foot in the center of the splint and padding bony protrusions.
Wrap one end of the splint over the front of the foot and around the ankle, squeezing to secure. Repeat for the other side, this should look like a figure of 8. Once done, wrap the splint tightly.
Add another splint up the sides of the shin, curving the edges to make it fit better. Wrap again to keep the splints in place.
5. On The Collarbone
Fold a SAM splint in half lengthways. Bend the 2 edges around your fingers to create a little lip at each side.
Bend the main body of the splint into a large curve. Place under the patient’s neck to provide support.
Tape the splint under the chin and above the collarbone to hold in place. Keep the neck straight and stabilized until medical assistance is with you.
6. On The Thumb
This is the simplest use of a SAM splint. Cut a small section of the splint off and wrap carefully around the injured digit. This will immobilize and protect the finger until it is healed.
There are many other uses of a SAM splint, which can be found alongside instructional videos, on the SAM medical training site. They do not require medical knowledge to operate and can massively help recovery if used promptly and correctly.
They are not a replacement for medical treatment but are truly essential for an outdoor first aid kit. SAM splints are cheap, reusable and could save your life.
And those are the 6 different ways to use a SAM splint.