• Ice, snow lead to more slips, trips, falls

  • With winter weather such as snow and ice, accidents like Temple had are not uncommon.

    • email print
  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    For Heather Temple, the morning of Feb. 27 started like any other day. Her four children were at school, her husband was at work, and she was heading out to run some errands before her shift at the Post Exchange that afternoon. But, in one second, everything changed.
    Because of the freeze that had occurred overnight, her steps and sidewalk were a sheet of ice.
    “All morning, I told the kids to watch out for the ice because the way our housing is, we have no sun that hits this back of the house until later in the afternoon,” Temple said. “So, any rain, any water that drains, it just stays.
    “So, I knew the ice was there and I was cautious. I planted my foot, and then planted the other one,” she said. “Then I picked up (my right) foot and when I went to plant it back down, it slid and made me fall.”
    As a result, Temple has a severely bruised and sprained right knee cap, stress fractures in her upper right arm, and a possible rotator cuff tear in her right shoulder. Because her right arm is in a sling, everyday tasks are affected and her at-home sewing business has had to be put on hold.
    “One of the hard things is asking for help when I really don’t need help all the time,” Temple said. “Luckily, (the children) have been very helpful, along with my husband.”
    With winter weather such as snow and ice, accidents like Temple had are not uncommon. According to Johnny Weaver, Garrison safety manager, a quarter of the accidents reported to his office are slips, trips and falls each year.
    “That is one of the leading causes of injury is trips and falls, especially in the winter months,” Weaver said. “I looked back from fiscal year 2011 through the present year, and we’ve averaged five recordable injury-producing slips, trips and falls (each year) that we can directly attribute to ice and snow.”
    Maj. John Lane, Munson Army Health Center Executive Wellness physical therapist, said the MAHC physical therapists are currently treating six patients who were injured falling on ice. Most of the patients experienced contusions, which Lane said is consistent with a study conducted in Washington, D.C., that determined 40 percent of the slip, trip and fall-related injuries were contusions. The study also determined that 45 percent of injuries were sprains or strains, and 15 percent were fractures.
    “Contusions, sprains and strains all result in muscular weakness or inhibition, whether the weakness comes from the trauma or from any lingering pain. Physical therapy can help identify and return the muscular activity to normal use,” Lane said. “More significant injuries such as fractures would result in immobilization, and then require activity to improve mobility and then strength and muscular endurance.”
    Page 2 of 2 - To avoid falling on the ice, the easy solution is to stay inside when there is questionable weather. However, for many people, that isn’t an option. So, there are ways to help prevent slips and falls on the ice, Lane said.
    “If you’re preparing for next winter, it is a good idea to work on balance and the ability to respond to initial loss of control as well as general leg strength,” Lane said. “The ankle and foot muscles make most of the small adjustments, followed by the hip when you lose balance.
    “If another storm came through next week then immediate focus could be put on using footwear with proper tread, taking shorter steps while keeping your weight over the middle of the foot when accepting weight, and minimizing acceleration or deceleration,” he said. “Consider the changes you make with driving on slippery surfaces in regards to avoiding slopes, rapid changes in direction and rapid changes in speed. So, if you see a set of stairs as well as a ramp, take the stairs.”
    However, even when precautions are taken, some falls are unavoidable.
    “To no surprise, not all falls are the same,” Lane said. “Making a conscious effort to avoid reaching out or reaching back to stop a fall could save several wrist or shoulder injuries.”
    Active-duty service members must report all injuries caused by accidents on or off duty. Department of the Army civilians must report any injuries they receive while on duty. When someone is injured in an accident, after rendering medical assistance, it should be reported to a supervisor as soon as possible.
    For more information, visit safety.army.mil.
  • Comment or view comments