By Dr. John Maguire
It’s not easy to avoid a slip-and-fall accident. In fact, statisticians at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one million Americans suffer a slip, trip, and fall injury each year — and more than 17,000 people die in the United States annually because of these injuries.
Not only that, but trip-and-fall injuries make up 15 percent of all job-related injuries, which account for between 12 percent and 15 percent of all Workers’ Compensation expenses.
The CDC categorizes falls into two basic types:
- Same-level falls: These are more common and therefore cause more injuries to more people. They are usually the result of accidental slips and trips, and injury generally takes place when the individual hits a walking or working surface or hits another object while falling.
- Elevated falls: This sort of fall is the most serious and causes more severe injuries, but affects a fewer number of people because it’s less common than same-level falls. About 60 percent of all elevated falls are from a height of less than 10 feet.
Falls range from annoying to devastating, and the best way to steer clear is to:
- Slow down, especially on slippery surfaces.
- Clean up spills from floors.
- Hold the handrail when climbing steps.
- Repair cracks in tile floors and driveways.
- Bring a flashlight with you. You never know when you might be walking in a new area at night.
- Hold hands with a companion, especially if you feel shaky or disoriented.
What you need to know about fractures:
In case you do take a spill and break a bone, it may help if you arm yourself with a little knowledge.
- The basics: A fracture is the medical term for a broken bone. Fractures are common; the average person has two during a lifetime. They occur when the physical force exerted on the bone is stronger than the bone itself. Your risk of fracture depends, in part, on your age. Broken bones are very common in childhood, though children’s fractures are generally less complicated than fractures in adults. As you age, your bones become more brittle, and when you fall, you are more likely than when you were young to suffer fractures. There are many types of fractures, but these are considered the main categories:
- Closed fracture: When the bone breaks, but there is no puncture or open wound in the skin. An open fracture is one in which the bone breaks through the skin; it may then recede back into the wound and not be visible through the skin. This is an important difference from a closed fracture because with an open fracture there is a risk of a deep bone infection.
- Greenstick fracture: An incomplete fracture in which the bone is bent. This type occurs most often in children.
- Transverse fracture: A fracture at a right angle to the bone’s axis.
- Oblique fracture: A fracture in which the break has a curved or sloped pattern.
- Comminuted fracture: A fracture in which the bone fragments into several pieces.
- Impacted fracture: This is one where the bones are driven into each other. This is commonly seen in arm fractures in children and is sometimes known as a buckle fracture. Other types of fracture are pathologic fracture, caused by a disease that weakens the bones, and stress fracture, a hairline crack.
- Pathologic fracture: A fracture caused by a disease that weakens the bones, and often results in a stress fracture.
When to be concerned:
The severity of a fracture depends on its location and the damage done to the bone and tissue near it.
Serious fractures can have dangerous complications if not treated promptly. Possible complications include damage to blood vessels or nerves, and infection of the bone (osteomyelitis) or surrounding tissue.
If you think you have broken a bone, head straight to the emergency room or an urgent care center.
Remember, too, that recuperation time varies depending on the age and health of the patient and the type of fracture. A minor fracture in a child may heal within a few weeks; a serious fracture in an older person may take months to heal.
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at Simplicity Urgent Care.