You might not think tripping and falling would do a whole lot of damage, but you'd be dead wrong.
Don't do this. Photo by Amelia Wells.
Falling injuries are the most common cause of injury-related emergency room visits. These types of tumbles are usually associated with older folks, but a fall at any age can be dangerous — especially if you hit your head. It doesn't take much to get a concussion, which can cause brain damage, confusion, intense headaches, vertigo, vision loss, memory loss and trouble focusing. You could die from smacking your head too, even if it seems like a fairly soft blow.
You could get a subdural hematoma, a life-threatening condition where your brain basically bleeds and builds up your intracranial pressure. It's hard to detect without getting a CAT scan, and symptoms can be subtle.
So, you're falling. What do you do? According to Dr Jessica Schwartz, a physical therapist who specialises in training athletes and people with prosthetic limbs to fall without hurting themselves, you need to focus on protecting your head. When you feel yourself start to lose your balance:
- Pivot so you aren't falling directly forward or backwards if possible. Fall to your side.
- Tuck your chin in to protect your head.
- Don't fall onto outstretched hands. You'll probably break your wrists and still may hit your head anyway.
- Place your arms to your side to help cushion your fall and protect your hip, or throw your arms up to cushion your head with your biceps, depending on the fall trajectory.
- Bend your knees and try not to fight the fall. Do what paratroopers are trained to do and roll with it, allowing yourself to go slightly limp and shift body weight to spread out and absorb the impact.
- Try to land on your thigh, buttocks and shoulder. Don't ever fall onto your knees since you can easily bust your kneecaps.
Here's a helpful video demonstration from News Satellite by Elliott Royce, a 95-year-old man who has fallen over 14,000 times to demonstrate how anyone can fall safely:
It's imperative that seniors learn these safe falling basics, but it's good knowledge for anyone to have in their back pocket. Just because you haven't fallen before doesn't mean it won't happen to you eventually — and it only takes one nasty spill.
If you do hit your head, don't hesitate to seek medical attention. Even a mild concussion can have serious ramifications. If you see someone else fall and hit their head, insist they seek out medical attention. They may say they feel fine, but it's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to head injuries.