Slipping on ice could hurt as bad as a car accident, BYU professor says

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PROVO — Slipping and falling after a winter storm can injure someone as much as being in a car accident, according to one expert from Brigham Young University.

Slipping and falling is the leading cause of traumatic brain injury nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and slippery or icy surfaces only compound that problem.

"We see a huge influx of patients coming in every single time there is a snowstorm — from falls, breaking bones, breaking hips, getting head injuries, that kind of thing," said Craig Nuttall, a nurse practitioner who also teaches in BYU's College of Nursing.

Nuttall is one of the researchers involved in a recent study that showed that the injuries from a slip and fall can be just as severe as those sustained in a car accident. He said people typically slip and fall outside on steps, sidewalks and driveways that aren't properly cleared. He also said public places can be risky too, particularly parking lots where black ice can form.

Winter falls can be particularly serious for those beyond their retirement years, Nuttall said. Some in that age group don't make it back home after being hospitalized for a fall, he said, and may end up in assisted living temporarily or permanently.

If you do fall, even if you don't think you are hurt, it's advisable to still be checked out, especially if you are a senior citizen, Nuttall said. That is because you could have a fracture or head injury, such as a concussion, that doesn't show symptoms right away.

If you're able, Nuttall suggests helping your elderly neighbors shovel their walks. He said the best defense against falling on the ice is your shoes: don't walk around in dress shoes. Forget about fashion and wear shoes that have some traction.


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