Have you ever wondered if there is a “right” way to fall?
The answer is YES!
When older adults experience a fall, research has shown their likelihood of falling again DOUBLES. The more often you fall, the more likely you are to experience a serious injury such as a broken bone, a concussion, and damaged tendons/ligaments.
Most of the time, it is hard to convince someone to focus on things that will help them prevent falls in the future. Why worry about something that hasn’t even happened yet?
We understand, and we also know that it is impossible to prevent 100% of falls anyway! That’s why we at Elevate PT & Wellness also implement fall recovery techniques with our clients. That way, when you DO fall, you’ll know exactly what to do.
Here are 5 strategies to use to avoid serious injuries after a fall. We can’t guarantee you won’t get a few scrapes and bruises, but the following techniques will help you avoid the big, “call 911” sort of injuries:
#1: DON’T FREEZE
This may be one of the hardest strategies to actually implement when you realize you are falling. Unless you’ve taken self-defense or actual fall technique classes (which teach you to recognize a threat as soon as it starts to happen), it is common to panic. However, if you freeze, you will likely sustain an injury if you allow your body to continue moving towards the ground. Being able to react within seconds takes practice, but there are plenty of ways to do so— especially with a professional!
#2: BENT IS BETTER THAN STRAIGHT
A common injury physical therapists treat is called “FOOSH”, which stands for Falling On an Outstretched Hand. Straight lines are bad for business because they don’t let allow the impact to be absorbed across multiple body parts. Instead, the body part that lands straight (usually an arm or a leg) results in a fracture.
#3: PROTECT YOUR HEAD
You’ve probably heard of a whiplash injury after a car accident. Typically, whiplash is caused by a force that moves the head and neck forward, and then backwards at a quick speed. This can cause a loss of consciousness (if the head comes in contact with another surface), a concussion and/or damage to ligaments and tendons in the neck. The same is similar during a fall. For example, when falling backwards, you should tuck your chin towards your chest for protection in order to avoid your head hitting the ground.
#4: AVOID BONES
When you fall on a bony part of your body, your chance of fracturing that bone increases. There are more than a few areas on our bodies to avoid, including:
The sides of your ankles
The sides of your hips
Tailbone and pelvis
So if you can’t fall on any of these body parts, where are you supposed to fall?
#5: AIM FOR THE MEAT (MUSCLE)
One of the best ways to avoid landing on your bony parts is to fall at an angle, instead of straight forward, backward or sideways. Falling at more of a diagonal protects the bones more, and takes better advantage of our natural padding (aka muscle!). Our glutes aren’t the only option, either. In fact, several large muscle groups in the upper body do the trick as well, like the large mass of muscles around your elbow/forearm and your deltoids (the large muscle that covers the shoulder).
If you don’t think you have enough “padding” to protect you during a fall, consider working with a healthcare professional who can help develop a strength training program for you. No matter how old you are, it is still possible to improve strength and muscle mass.
While we hope you never experience a fall, we also hope you’ll keep these strategies at the front of your mind to avoid serious injuries.