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The Top 3 Icy Weather Slip & Fall Injuries


Winter is a time for outdoor fun, and days spent snow tubing, iceskating, and building snowmen. However, it is also a high season for slip and fall injuries. More 18 to 64 year olds visit emergency rooms on winter weather advisory days, than at any other times of the year. The elderly are particularly at risk of injuries due to unsteadiness while walking, and bone fragility.

Although concussions and tailbone or other vertebral fractures are possible, the wrist, hip and ankle are injured more often as a result of falls on snow or ice. Fall related fractures are most often treated by orthopedists.

Wrist Fractures Caused by slippy weather

A reflexive response to falling is to extend the arms and hands to protect the rest of the body. The force of the body’s weight on impact can fracture any of the 10 wrist bones. A Colles fracture, where the distal radius articulates with the thumb, is most common. The stronger the force, the more likely the ulna and small wrist bones will sustain injury as well.

Signs of a fracture include wrist deformity in addition to bruising, swelling, and pain. Because of possible damage to nearby blood vessels and nerves, immediate evaluation is important. X-ray, CT, or MRI imaging can be used to determine the extent of injury, and development of a treatment plan. Single fractures with no skin penetration can usually be realigned and stabilized without surgery.

More complicated cases require stabilization of the bone fragments with metal hardware, and repair of severed tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. Because residual muscle stiffness, numbness, and reduced mobility are common, physical and occupational therapies are important components of the recovery process.

Fractured Hip By Slip & Fall

The hip is the most commonly fractured body part in adults over age 65. It is the reason for over 300,000 hospitalizations each year. Slower reflexes and problems with balance can result in a sideways fall onto ice, landing on the hip. This joint is comprised of the pelvis and upper end of the femur, or thigh bone.

The head of the femur rotates within the pelvic socket, and is fragile. It is also prone to osteoporotic changes in elderly women. During a fall, this bone may simple crack or slide out of place. In either case, pain and the inability to walk are experienced immediately. Emergency medical attention is essential to assess injury severity, and whether or not blood supply to the leg is in jeopardy.

Initial treatment involves pain management, and replacement of fluid or blood losses. To insure the best healing and outcome, surgery is usually necessary. Because the blood vessels that supply the head of the femur are often damaged, they must be repaired to insure the longer viability of this bone. Hip fractures are very serious, and require ongoing rehabilitation and care after surgery. Many individuals never return to their previous level of mobility or quality of life after this type of fracture.

Fractured Ankle in Slippery Weather

The ankle consists of the distal ends of the two lower leg bones, the tibia and fibula, and the talus bone at the base of the foot. While slipping on ice or snow, the ankle may twist under the weight of the body, causing a break in the distal tibia or fibula. Surrounding tendons and ligaments may also be stretched or torn. This 70 percent of these fractures affect only one side of the ankle.

Physicians use imaging and specific criteria to classify each type of ankle fracture. This helps to determine the best treatment plan. In general, surgery is recommended when the ankle is unstable due to displacement, multiple bone fragments, or torn ligaments and tendons. If necessary, pins, screws, or plates are used to secure the bone fragments after re-alignment.

Underlying medical conditions in the elderly, however, may warrant more conservative management. Outcomes following an ankle fracture can vary. Stable fractures that do not require surgical intervention tend to heal well within eight weeks. When surgery is necessary, assistive walking devices, and multidisciplinary care can help with recovery. Long-term complications, however, are possible once ankle fractures have healed, including arthritis and joint degeneration.


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