How To Avoid Serious Injury During A Fall:
Prepare, Fall the Smart Way, and What to Do Immediately After
Paratroopers, professional wrestlers and stunt actors are experts at doing something we all fear and avoid––falling. These professional tumblers train to fall with no or minimal injuries.
No matter what our age – tweeners to seniors – we can and should learn these skills. And as we slip into the winter months, there’s no better time!
This is National Falls Prevention Season for a Reason
“We’re heading into the months where a couple of things happen that increase our risk of falling,” says Sarah Shearer-Smith, Consonus Healthcare’s long-time Northwest Director of Clinical Services and one of a small number of clinicians in the US who is recognized as a trained geriatric specialist in physical therapy.
“Outside surfaces can become unpredictably wet, icy and slippery. And we spend more time inside and are moving around less, so we need to be sure to keep exercising, working on our balance, and making sure our environments are safe.”
Still, despite our best planning and no matter our age, we will fall.
“The risk of falls and resulting injuries are not unique to just growing older. It’s something all of us face. It’s information we all need to be aware of and use across our lifespan.”
So, let’s do it!
In this blog, Shearer-Smith is going to teach us three tips on avoiding serious injury. First, how to prepare for falls; Second, how to fall; and third, what to do immediately after you fall.
#1 How to Prepare for a Fall
Ask yourself how you would get help if you fell and weren’t able to get to a phone. Those Lifeline emergency button commercials with the iconic, “Help! I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” are still a solution for many people. But there are other options. “Those who live in senior communities or assisted/independent living facilities may program an emergency facility or front office number into their cell-phones,” says Shearer-Smith. “But this does require someone to keep their cell-phones with them at all times or even have a holder on their walker for their phone. So, for people living both inside and outside of senior communities, vocally-prompted services like Alexis or Siri can be a good solution. The key is having an easy, accessible way to call for help.”
#2 How to Fall the Smart Way
For each direction falls occur–forward, backward and sideway–remember what the stunt actors do to protect their heads and avoid serious injuries: Tuck your chin; Bend your knees; Relax and roll into your fall; and land on the softest parts of our bodies.
- If falling forward: Try to bend your knees, turn your face and body to the side and land on your forearms (versus your hands) which will give you a wider base to land, protect your head and help lessen serious injuries.
- If falling backwards. “This is the second of the two most common types of falls–forward being the other–but often when we fall backwards, we are less able to try to take an extra step to prevent the fall,” says Shearer-Smith. “It’s so important to tuck your chin, bend your knees in the squat position and land on your “cushion” (rear end and fleshy part of hips, not your bones), if possible. Without bending your knees there’s nothing to obstruct the fall and that’s where we can see severe head injuries and fractures. Also, if you put an arm back to try to slow or stop the fall, try to land on your forearms, versus your hands.”
- If falling to the side: “Again, bend your knees and try to break the fall with your forearms and try to land on the fleshy part of your hips and thighs, not hip or shoulder bones,” says Shearer-Smith. “Anytime we can lower our center of gravity, we’re going to reduce our risk of serious injury. And particularly when falling to the side, serious injuries can occur to the hip and shoulder.”
#3 What to do Immediately After a Fall
“Resist the temptation to try and stand up right away. Stay calm and make an assessment whether it’s safe to attempt to get up or even move,” says Shearer-Smith. “If you can’t move, use your phone or verbal command technology to ask for help. If you can move, use the “roll, wiggle and crawl” method of getting to your feet. Slowly roll, wiggle, or crawl over to a stable surface. Using the surface, try to slowly bring yourself to the sitting, then half-kneel, and then kneeling positions on the floor. Now reassess whether you’re able to pull yourself up to a sitting position on the stable surface. Reassess once more before trying to stand or walk.”
A little prep now, will keep you safe during the riskiest months for falls!