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3 ways to prevent slips and falls

Fall injuries rise during the colder winter months as sidewalks and driveways are covered with snow and ice. The sparkling fresh snow can be beautiful to look at, but it can also hide trip hazards and make the ground slippery.

Each year over 32,000 people are killed by falls. Annually 2.8 million people are treated in emergency rooms for fall related injuries. For comparison, firearms only kill 13,000 people annually and 34,000 people are killed in fatal car accidents. Unintentional injuries, including falls, are the third highest cause of death in the nation.

Fall prevention

It takes a fraction of a second to lose your balance and a fall can happen to anyone almost anywhere. However, there are ways to avoid a slip and fall. Here are some fall prevention steps you should take:

· The right footwear: Wearing shoes with slip resistant soles made of rubber or neoprene will help you grip the ground. Consider packing your indoor footwear in your work satchel and wearing boots to walk through the snow during your commute. At home, wearing slippers or socks with rubber bottoms will prevent slips on hard surfaces while keeping your feet warm.

· Walk safer: When you are walking, scan the path in front of you and take smaller steps. As you are walking, do not shuffle; rather make sure to lift your feet up off the ground to prevent catching your shoe. Plotting your course will help you avoid any trip hazards in your path.

· Remove trip hazards at home: Take time to clean up any objects on your floor that could cause you to trip. Use handrails when walking up and down your steps. When reaching for high up objects, use a step stool and do not stand on a chair. While on the step stool, make sure to maintain three points of contact and avoid overreaching.

Falling correctly

Since one out of five falls results in a broken bone, learning how to fall correctly can help prevent serious injuries. When you lose your balance, the natural instinct is to reach out with your arms to catch yourself and brace for impact, but that often results in broken bones. Instead you should attempt to turn your body and roll your shoulder inward to land on your side. If you are falling backwards, you should try to tuck your chin into your chest to prevent hitting the back of your head. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury.

Not every fall can be prevented, but learning how to fall correctly to prevent further damage is helpful. In the Netherlands, physical and occupational therapist teach classes on how to fall correctly. The class focuses on balance exercises and participants practice falling on padded mats. While falling classes haven't taken off in the U.S. yet, balance strengthening exercises can help people of all ages. Increasing your physical activity level and balance is one of the best ways to stop a fall from causing serious damage.

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