Fall prevention training wouldn’t be complete without discussing contingencies. Like, if you’re falling, what’s the right way to fall, and how do you get back up? Let’s talk about the first one, how to fall.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in four older adults report a fall each year. In 2019, over 3.1 million older adults aged 65 and older were treated in emergency departments, a 34% increase over the previous 10 years. In a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA®), up to 1-in-10 falls results in serious injuries, and it’s the leading cause of deaths due to injuries in people 65 and older.
Despite increased awareness and implementation of falls prevention strategies, at some point a fall is likely in everyone’s life. I suggest that if we’re going to fall, then why not learn how to fall correctly. And according to people who deal with falls professionally, including paratroopers, stunt professionals and physical therapists, there is indeed a “right way” to fall. Here is their list of the most important things to know.
Tips on the Right Way to Fall
- Relax & stay loose.
Bend your elbows and knees. When your arms and legs are rigid, you’re more likely to suffer a broken wrist, elbow, or knee. It’s not falling that causes injuries, it’s the sudden stop. Soften your body to reduce the sudden impact.
- Protect your head.
Ideally, as you fall you want to pivot your body to the side and tuck in your head. Falling forward or backwards causes the most head, spine, and internal organ injuries. If you are falling forward, be sure to turn your face to the side. Or, if falling backward, tuck your chin to your chest so your head doesn’t hit the ground.
- Land on meat, not bone.
Try to take the hit on the fleshiest parts of your body, the muscles in your butt, back, and thighs. Anything but bone. Land on muscle and you’ll be less likely to break bones. A bruised butt may hurt for a while, but it’s better than hospitalization and rehab.
- Keep falling.
The key is to not fight the fall, just to roll with it as paratroopers do. The idea is to orient your body to the ground so when you hit, there’s a multistep process of hitting and rolling your body. To lessen the impact, spread it across a larger part of your body and don’t concentrate it on one area. The more you roll with the fall, the safer you will be.
- Plant a foot for control and balance.
Each of the points mentioned above is much easier if you can place a foot correctly in the early moments of a fall. This support foot can help you regain balance, decelerate the fall, and get some control back.
But “knowing” how to fall isn’t enough says Kevin Inouye, stuntman and assistant professor of movement, acting, and stage combat at Case Western Reserve University. “It’s something you need to practice because when you need it, it has to be in your muscle memory, not somewhere in your head. There’s no time to think about it while it’s happening. We react on impulse. You don’t have time to react, so familiarizing yourself with these points is key. ”
Ron Dorr is a Certified Senior Fitness Trainer and Balance & Falls Prevention Specialist. His mission is to provide the tools, motivation and support to seniors who want to get and stay active to improve their quality of life.