The Art of Falling

Each year over 30 million adults fall leading to 2.8 million injuries treated in the emergency room and 30,000 deaths. In the US a senior adult falls every second. As our nation continues to age these numbers are projected to continue to increase.

Many articles and social media posts that we read today discuss how to prevent falling. It touches base on what exercises to perform, proper footwear, how to safely arrange your home, what medications can contribute to falling, and other various health-related topics. While all of these are important pieces to the puzzle in reducing your fall risk today we are going to discuss something different. One area that is not discussed nearly as much is how we should fall. Things happen quickly and not all falls are preventable. That’s why it is important to learn how to fall and here are some tips on doing it correctly. 

Protecting your head is one of the biggest factors in a safe fall. When we fall our first instinct should be to tuck our chin toward our chest. We also want to bend our knees and elbows keeping them as soft as possible. People tend to stiffen up and straighten their arms and legs outward. This tends to cause more pressure on your bones and joints during impact and leads to greater injury. For example, when falling in any direction do not straighten your arms and land on your hands, this will cause significant injury to your wrist and shoulder joints. Instead, we want to keep our elbows bent and try to “slap” the ground with our hands during ground impact. This will allow the pressure of the fall to be spread out through your arm and upper body causing less stress on the bones and joints. Another common technique when falling is to try and roll as you fall. This allows for momentum to reduce the impact forces on your body.

These techniques can be very difficult to practice as most people do not want to participate in something that could potentially hurt them. The best advice we can give to be ready to fall as safely as possible is to be well-educated on fall techniques, discuss further with a skilled professional such as a Physical or Occupational therapist, or consider watching online video resources to visually see how to fall correctly. This will give people their best odds of falling safely and preventing serious injury.

Article by Branden Schutlz, PTA and Clinic Manager at our Milbank, SD location.