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Preventing Slip-and-Fall Accidents This Winter

Written by Joshua Alpert, MD on December 17, 2014

As the weather changes and winter approaches, this unfortunately is the time of year when orthopedic surgeons see an increase in the number of patients who present to the office with injuries from slip-and-fall accidents on ice.

Falls can happen anytime and anywhere to people of any age. However, as people get older, the number of falls and the severity of injury resulting from falls increases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in people 65 and older.

The most common injuries that I see in my office due to falls are wrist fractures, low back strains, shoulder rotator cuff tears, ankle fractures, knee sprains, and hip fractures.

Falls can be a debilitating, life-changing event, and commonly need surgical fixation.

Fortunately, many of these falls can be prevented.

Below are some tips to avoid slip-and-fall accidents during the winter season, and what to do if an accident occurs.

When it’s icy:

  • Don’t let a hat or scarf block your vision and watch for ice patches and uneven surfaces.
  • Keep the path between your driveway and the front door, as well as the pathway between the mailbox and your front door, well-lit and clear of debris.
  • Keep salt and a shovel near the front door so you don’t have to walk on an icy sidewalk in order to reach them.
  • If possible, install motion-detector lights so they turn on automatically when you step outside at night.
  • At least one covered, no step entry with a ramp is recommended for any home.

Proper footwear is vital:

  • Wear properly-fitting shoes with nonskid soles and avoid high heels.
  • Tie your shoe laces.
  • Use a long-handled shoehorn if you have trouble putting on your shoes.
  • Never walk in your stocking feet and replace slippers that have stretched out of shape and are too loose.

Health and medications:

  • An annual eye examination and a physical that includes an evaluation for cardiac and blood pressure problems help decrease the risk of having a medical issue that can contribute to the risk of falling.
  • Maintaining a diet with adequate dietary calcium and Vitamin D, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake, and checking with your doctor about any side effects of your medications are vital to a patients overall health.

What to do if you fall:

  • Do not panic. Assess the situation and determine if you are hurt.
  • Slide or crawl along the floor to the nearest couch or chair and try to get up.
  • If you cannot get up, call for help.
  • If you are alone, slowly crawl to the telephone and call 911 or relatives.