In a recent post, we discussed some of the serious dangers of slip-and-fall accidents for older adults. Slip-and-falls are the most common cause of emergency room visits, and such injuries disproportionately affect adults age 65 and over. In addition, slip-and-falls create an increased risk of traumatic brain injury in this subset of the population.

While you can take certain steps to minimize slip and trip hazards in your own home, you can’t totally eliminate the possibility of a tumble. However, knowing the safest way to fall can help you minimize injury in the event of such an accident.

How to fall safely

Unless you made a career as a professional soccer player or gymnast, you probably never learned the correct way to fall. When you were a kid, your body was resilient and easily bounced back from such an accident. But as you’ve grown older, a simple stumble can quickly lead to serious injuries.

If you wipe out on the sidewalk, you can have some control over the severity of your injuries. You just have to re-teach your body how to react:

  • Limbs: When you start to feel yourself lose balance, your instinct is to reach out to support yourself. But landing on straight arms can easily result in broken wrists or jammed elbows. Instead, tuck your limbs into your body to avoid falling onto hard, knobby joints.
  • Direction: Managing the direction of your fall can have a major impact on your injuries. The most dangerous way to fall is directly forward or backward–as you’re more likely to suffer trauma to the spine, hit your head or suffer whiplash. Pivoting to redirect your fall onto the side–landing on a well-padded area, such as the buttocks, thigh or shoulder–can greatly reduce your injury.
  • Tension: If you’re not used to falling, the unfamiliar sensation of plummeting toward the ground can naturally cause your body to tense up. However, in drunk driving accidents, the injuries suffered by the inebriated driver are frequently less severe than by other accident victims–because drunk drivers are too impaired to tense up before the accident. Having a relaxed body during impact can help you to move with the fall–rather than fight against it.

A slip-and-fall can happen to anyone. However, reacting quickly and appropriately can help you minimize any resulting injuries.