Slips, trips and falls are responsible for around 1 million injuries each year, but winter tends to be the most dangerous season when snow and ice create additional hazards, particularly around entryways and sidewalks.
Risk for greater injury from a fall on ice increases with age. Approximately one-third of seniors over the age of 65 will fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of injury among the elderly and account for 25 percent of all hospital admissions. Injuries can range from bruising to sprains, strains and even fractures or breaks.
With winter in full swing, learn how you can reduce the risk of slips and falls on ice and prevent greater injury if an accident does occur, as offered by the MountainStar Comprehensive Spine Centers.
1. Clear walkways and paths
While slips and falls can occur anywhere, be sure you have taken proper steps to keep your walkway and drive clear. Shovel out the steps and walkway entrance after a fresh snow to prevent the snow from packing down and solidifying into ice. Make sure there isn't any debris or obstructions masked under the snow that could trip up an unsuspecting pedestrian. As an added caution, consider sanding or salting your drive and walkways for extra traction.
2. Take shorter steps
Be attentive to where you place your steps as you walk over snowy or icy areas. Keep your steps shorter and more deliberate to keep your center of gravity under you. Pay particular attention to areas that may receive less sunlight that could remain icy after snowy sections have melted off. When walking in snowy or icy conditions, go slowly and don't rush. Watch your feet to keep your balance steady and to avoid tripping on any debris or uneven surfaces that could be hidden by a dusting of snow.
3. Wear non-slip winter footwear
Leave the Louboutins at home. Whenever you are out in the snow, be sure to don appropriate footwear. Flat footwear with slip-resistant rubber soles will provide better traction and security than high heels or leather-soled shoes. You can also improve the traction on shoes or boots by using non-slip spray adhesive on the soles, or adding removable ice grips around the shoes for trips out in the snow.
4. Pay attention when exiting your car
Climbing in and out of the car can be especially dangerous in icy conditions. To keep yourself steady, swing both legs out of the car so that you place your weight on both feet when you stand up. Hold onto the car for support, keeping the center of gravity balanced to avoid sliding.
5. Fall safely
Sometimes accidents happen, even when we are careful. The key to preventing injury from a fall is to fall safely. Most injuries from slips and falls occur from throwing the arms out to break the fall or hitting the head or neck first. This can lead to breaks, fractures, back compressions and concussions.
If you start to feel yourself fall, fight the instinct to reach out. Instead, tuck and roll into the fall. Keep your head tucked into your chest and hold your arms in at your side or chest. This will protect the back of your head from breaking the fall first and transfer the bulk of the impact into your shoulders and the sides of your arms.
Winter is a beautiful season, but it can bring with it many hazards. If you live in a snowy area, take these steps to prevent slips and falls and avoid significant injury. If you do suffer a fall on ice, especially if you hit your head, neck or back, seek medical attention immediately. Concussions and spinal injuries are not always immediately recognizable right after a fall.