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Walking on ice: How best to prevent falling, and what to do if you do fall

Date: February 23, 2023 Category: Community

BUFFALO, N.Y. – When ice is on the ground, even the most confident and careful people can fall. The National Weather Service of Buffalo reported that many parts of Western New York received nearly or more than a half an inch of freezing rain – notorious among weather experts as the most dangerous type of precipitation.

We know to be careful and go slow – but can anything else truly make a difference on icy sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, and roads? Excelsior Orthopaedics Safety Coordinator Peter McCabe says, yes, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of falling.

“What some people don’t always think about is your footwear,” McCabe says. “We have a lot people unfortunately coming in who might be wearing sandals, even in this type of weather…so just wearing the proper is very important. It will give you a lot opportunity to prevent these hopefully in the future.”

McCabe says hold on to things that might be near you, like your car or railings. But many times, there’s nothing within reach. We’ve all heard the phrase “Walk like a penguin,” but what does that mean if you want to put that advice into practice?

McCabe says 60 percent of our typical gait pattern is a person’s weight being all on one foot. So, when walking on ice, make sure your hands are out of your pockets, and walk and shuffle carefully with your body as forward as it can be to make sure your center of gravity stays over your feet, just like a penguin looks when walking.

Also let people know where you’re going and what you’re doing is always a good idea, too, because just in case something does happen, people know where to find you.

Now let’s say the fall is inevitable. You’re going down, and you have a split second to try and break the fall.

Number one is don’t get up to fast; that can cause issues with your head or your heart, especially if you have preexisting blood or heart conditions or previous injuries, McCabe warns.

“The best thing you can do is keep your hands out of your pockets, try to tuck yourself in, and almost lean away from the ground as your fall toward it, trying to put most of the force onto your arms and your back if possible, or your buttocks, if possible,” he says. “Trying to ensure that your head does not hit the ground is obviously very important.”

Falls happen often, caused by all sorts of reasons.

“A lot, unfortunately. Unintentional falls due to, not just weather, but ladders and things like that is the leading cause of injury in the US. And unfortunately, it places a large burden on ERs as well as other areas that provide care as well,” he says.

That’s where Excelsior Express comes in. Skip the ER, and come right to us for orthopaedic urgent care, where we specifically treat breaks and strains. At Express, we can take an X-ray if needed, diagnose the injury, and get you the proper cast, boot, or sling all in the same visit. Scheduling your visit online is strongly encouraged for our four Express locations, but we do accept walk-ins as well.

Pete shared this advice on News 4 Buffalo Wednesday afternoon. You can watch his interview below:

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