It may not yet be officially the beginning of winter, but for many, the cold and snow are here to stay. And that means slippery sidewalks, roads and pathways that can be fall hazards, especially for older adults. Because falls are a leading cause of injury, hospitalization and loss of independence among seniors, researchers are constantly looking for ways to help prevent falls and reduce injuries.
New research looks at teaching the “tuck-and-roll” fall strategy to seniors, a technique used by paratroopers to minimize injury while landing. A study, recently published in the Journal of Biomechanics, found that older adults who learned the “tuck-and-roll” movement strategy were able to reduce fall impact severity. Participants in the training group were able to lower the hip impact force by 33 percent during falling assessments.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 4 adults over the age of 65 suffer a fall each year and 20 percent of falls cause serious injuries such as a broken bone or head injury. At least 300,000 older Americans are hospitalized with a hip fracture each year and 95 percent of those are as a result of a sideways fall.
Falls usually occur unpredictably but are more common during icy weather. Rather than fall sideways on a hip, straight forwards or backward or onto outstretched hands, seniors who learn to roll into a fall, distributing their weight will lower their risk for serious injury. Let the most padded part of the body, the thigh, buttocks or shoulder cushion the fall, not resisting the fall but allowing the momentum to spread out the impact over a greater area. It may be counter-intuitive but learning to relax, pivot to your side and tuck and roll into the fall, rather than tense up and try to stop your fall with your hands, will result in fewer and less serious injuries.
Staying physically active with regular exercise including strength and balance training will also help older adults prevent injury from falls. In the winter, always keep walkways and stairs cleared of snow and ice, install handrails where needed, and wear supportive, grippy boots. Canes can be fitted with an ice pick tip for winter weather, which can be found at most pharmacies.
Learn more about how to fall without causing serious injury by watching this 95-year-old man teach seniors how to fall without fear and distribute their weight.