fall on icy pavement

A Slippery Slope and a Fall on Icy Pavement

R. Robert Franks, DO, FAOASM March 20th, 2018

Common Injuries from Sustaining a Fall on Ice This Winter Season

As the colder weather continues, out come the scarves and sweaters — and with them, the occasional thin layer of invisible ice on sidewalks and driveways. Even as everyone settles into sweater weather, it is important to be aware of the dangers associated with Fall and Winter. Cold means ice, and that means the increased risk of a fall on icy pavement.

There is a wide range of slip and fall on ice injuries that can be sustained during the fall and winter months. The most common injuries are sprains or strains, broken bones, and concussions. These injuries may be relatively mild, but it is still important to be aware of them and to seek medical attention if they are serious and the symptoms persist.

There are some important slipping on ice injuries statistics of which you should be aware. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that nearly one million people are injured from falls on the ice each year. It is important to know what kind of injuries you may sustain as well as some preventative measures.

Why kind of injuries can I get from a fall on icy pavement?

A simple fall on the ice can lead to several different types of injuries, such as:

  • Concussions: A concussion is an injury that occurs when you fall and hit your head or hit the pavement and the force radiates through your chest, back, or neck to your head. Concussions require medical attention. People who suffer from concussions can experience headache, nausea or vomiting, blurred vision, confusion, balance/coordination problems, visual changes, and/or short term memory loss. It is important to seek out a physician to be diagnosed early. If left untreated a concussion can lead to serious health risks/complications.   

  • Sprain or strains: A strain is an injury where a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn. A sprain is an injury where a ligament in stretched or torn. Falling on ice can cause an ankle sprain, wrist sprain, and even knee sprain. Back strains are very common from falls on ice.  These injuries are usually mild and only require rest, icing, and elevation, but if associated with swelling, bruising, or a change in structure of the joint, medical attention should be obtained.  

  • Broken bones: If you experience an unusually hard fall, a broken bone, or fracture, could be a result. Broken wrists, arm, ankles, and legs are the most common breaks from falls. Wrist and arm injuries can be sustained by trying to brace from a fall. Leg injuries can be sustained by trying to maintain balance or the sudden change of direction due to icy surfaces. Broken bones are more serious than a sprain or a strain and will either require a brace or cast, and will take several weeks to heal.  Some broken bones may require surgical repair.

Who is at the highest risk?

There are some groups of people who are more susceptible to a fall on icy pavement. For instance, older people are more likely to sustain a fall during the winter season. As we age, our bones become more brittle, thus making a small slip and fall potentially more serious. Slip and falls are one of the leading injuries among seniors.

How can I prevent falls?

There are some easy measures you can take to help minimize your risk of falling, such as:

  • Wearing shoes with proper grip

  • Taking your time while walking on icy surfaces

  • Shoveling or salting walkways in your home to reduce ice forming

If you or a loved one experiences a fall on icy pavement this winter season, the specialists at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute are equipped to help you. Please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

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