Every year doctors, emergency rooms, and urgent injury clinics see an increase in hand and wrist patients during winter. The natural reaction when you slip and fall on ice is to reach out and brace yourself with your hands which often leads to wrist fractures and hand injuries. Dr. John Gaffey, Hand and Upper Extremity Surgeon at DMOS Orthopaedic Centers has some tips on how to protect yourself from injury this winter.
Wear the right shoes
The shoes you wear during the winter time can help prevent falls. Choose a shoe that has a non-slip tread, rubber sole, and a low, wide heel. If you have to wear a nicer dress shoe, consider wearing your boots and changing your shoes once you reach your destination. High heels and dress boots will decrease your base of support which can affect your balance and cause you to fall.
Bundling up may seem like the perfect solution to combat the cold weather but make sure you are not blocking your line of sight. Choose scarves, hats, and coats that allow you to see where you are walking as well as your surroundings.
Watch where you are walking
When you are walking outside try and use well-lit areas so you can spot and avoid any slippery spots. Paying extra attention while you are walking in the winter should not stop when you go inside. Watch for wet spots and slippery floors when you go into a building. Make sure you are wiping your feet when you enter as well, so you do not create a slippery situation for yourself or someone else.
If the sidewalk is slippery – use the grass
If the sidewalk is too slippery to walk on and you have to go outside consider walking on the grass. This will allow you more traction, and you can avoid icy patches.
Shuffle – take your time
Taking it slow is an excellent way to avoid falling in the winter. Plan accordingly, and leave a few minutes early, so you are not rushing in slippery conditions. If you have to cross an icy patch try to walk as flat-footed as possible and if you have to go downhill try walking sideways. This will increase your base of support and allow your back foot to hold you if you begin to slide.
Keep your hands clear
When you are walking, avoid carrying items or walking with your hands in your pockets. Keeping your hands clear will allow you to protect yourself in the event that you do fall. If you have to carry an item and begin to fall drop whatever you are carrying and focus on protecting yourself instead of the object.
How to fall
Chances are you are going to slip on the ice at some point so it is important to know how to fall the correct way. When you begin to fall avoid using your arms to protect against the fall and try to roll with the fall. If possible twist and roll backward instead of falling forward. Bend your head and back forward, so you do not slam your head on the pavement if you lose your footing.
“The best way to protect yourself against winter falls is staying indoors whenever possible,” said Dr. Gaffey. “If you do have to go outside and you injure yourself from a fall, contact your physician. If the injury seems serious, visit our urgent injury clinic or the emergency room.”