According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Falls Are Serious and Costly.
The following statistics were obtained from the CDC website:
One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury1-5
Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.6
Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.6
Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.7
More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling,8
Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).10
In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion.11 Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.11
Even with lots of safety precautions and fall prevention strategies falls happen. Preparing and knowing how to fall can save a life! In the unfortunate event you find yourself falling try to implement these strategies to minimize the risk of serious injury.
1. Protect your head. The most important body part that you need to protect in a fall is your head. Head injuries can be very serious, even deadly. Make sure you prioritize protecting your head as you fall by properly positioning it.
Tuck your chin down, lowering your head.
If falling, face first, turn your head to the side.
Twist your shoulder to protect your head
Bring your arms up to head level for additional protection. Put them in front of your head if falling forwards or behind your head if falling backwards.
If you are taking anticoagulants or blood thinners and fall and hit your head, this may result in a dangerous and life-threatening bleed inside your skull. Call your doctor, who may tell you to go to the hospital for a CT scan.
2. Turn as you fall. If you are falling either straight forward or straight backwards, try to turn your body so you land on your side.
Falling directly on your back can cause serious injury to it. A frontal fall can cause damage to the head, face, and arms.
By landing on your side, you can reduce the chance of injury from high distances (for example, one way vertical paths).
Swing your arms to help the direction change
Keep your knees bent and feet down.
3. Lean into the fall – this gives you some control over the direction
4. Aim for grass, dirt or open areas rather than concrete
5. Fall on the soft, fleshy places like your butt or thighs- they have more protection and are closer to the ground.
6. Aim away from other people or objects that can cause puncture wounds
7. Keep arms and legs bent.
It may be tempting to try and catch yourself fully as you fall with your arms. However, landing with your arms straight out and absorbing the full force of the fall with them can cause injury.
Try keeping both arms and legs slightly bent as you fall.
Landing fully on your arms to catch yourself can break both your wrists and arms.
8. Stay loose.
· Tensing up during a fall can increase the chances of sustaining an injury.
The tension in your body won’t allow for the absorption of force from the fall.
Instead of spreading the impact out over a flexible body, the parts that were kept taught are more likely to break instead of going with the motion.
Fall like a sack of beans- relax everything
You can try breathing out as you fall to help keep your body relaxed.
9. If you are falling forward or to the side: Roll out of the impact.
If you are able, a good technique to dissipate the force of a fall is to roll into it.
By rolling, you send the energy of the fall into the roll, rather than having your body absorb the impact.
Since the technique is difficult, you may want to practice falling and rolling at a gym or somewhere with padded and cushioned floors.
Start in a low squat position.
Lean forward and place your palms flat on the ground in front of you.
Push off the ground with your legs and move your weight forwards.
Your legs will go over your head.
Keep your back rounded and gently try to land on a shoulder.
Let the momentum carry you through the roll and back up onto your feet.
10. If you are falling backward: Roll out of the impact
Keep arms out to the side
Slap palms on ground
Roll onto back
Slap ground with free hand
11. As you complete the fall, try to roll to your side in a ball. This will spread the impact to reduce injury and stop you from rolling further.
Bergen G, Stevens MR, Burns ER. Falls and Fall Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:993–998. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6537a2
Stevens JA, Ballesteros MF, Mack KA, Rudd RA, DeCaro E, Adler G. Gender differences in seeking care for falls in the aged Medicare Population. Am J Prev Med 2012;43:59–62.
O’Loughlin J et al. Incidence of and risk factors for falls and injurious falls among the community-dwelling elderly. American journal of epidemiology, 1993, 137:342-54.
Alexander BH, Rivara FP, Wolf ME. The cost and frequency of hospitalization for fall–related injuries in older adults. American Journal of Public Health 1992;82(7):1020–3.
Sterling DA, O’Connor JA, Bonadies J. Geriatric falls: injury severity is high and disproportionate to mechanism. Journal of Trauma–Injury, Infection and Critical Care 2001;50(1):116–9
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web–based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. Accessed August 5, 2016.
Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://hcupnet.ahrq.govexternal icon. Accessed 5 August 2016..
Hayes WC, Myers ER, Morris JN, Gerhart TN, Yett HS, Lipsitz LA. Impact near the hip dominates fracture risk in elderly nursing home residents who fall. Calcif Tissue Int 1993;52:192-198.
Parkkari J, Kannus P, Palvanen M, Natri A, Vainio J, Aho H, Vuori I, Järvinen M. Majority of hip fractures occur as a result of a fall and impact on the greater trochanter of the femur: a prospective controlled hip fracture study with 206 consecutive patients. Calcif Tissue Int, 1999;65:183–7.
Jager TE, Weiss HB, Coben JH, Pepe PE. Traumatic brain injuries evaluated in U.S. emergency departments, 1992–1994. Academic Emergency Medicine 2000&359;7(2):134–40.
Florence CS, Bergen G, Atherly A, Burns ER, Stevens JA, Drake C. Medical Costs of Fatal and Nonfatal Falls in Older Adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2018 March, DOI:10.1111/jgs.15304
Vellas BJ, Wayne SJ, Romero LJ, Baumgartner RN, Garry PJ. Fear of falling and restriction of mobility in elderly fallers. Age and Ageing 1997;26:189–193.