Tips to avoid falls while walking on ice

January 6, 2019

If you’ve spent any time in Minnesota during the winter, you’ve likely fallen on ice at least once.

Maybe it was while you were skating, making it only slightly less embarrassing than falling while getting out of the car or simply walking down the sidewalk. Ice may be unavoidable, but there are a few things people can do to lessen their chances of falling and injuring themselves.

Mayo Clinic physical therapist Timothy Madson sat down with the Post Bulletin to offer a few tips.

His first recommendation? Avoid going out at all when possible. But that is not always feasible.

Madson said one of the key things that keeps us safe and responding to slippery surfaces is our locomotor systems — the organ system that gives us the ability to use our muscular and skeletal systems.

“If we have a sensation that the ground we are on is slippery, like there is snow or ice with a coating of snow on top of it, we walk more slowly, more deliberately,” Madson said. “We would take a more flat-footed approach.”

Wear cleats

Madson said that some people swear by YakTrax, crampons or other ice and snow traction cleats that can be placed over shoes and boots. There are a variety of options on the market.

Madson said that research from 2005 that looked at crampon use among seniors found a marked decrease in falls among those using the devices. And there were fewer serious injuries among those who did fall.

Hands out of your pockets

Keeping your hands out of your pockets is helpful for maintaining balance because you can distribute your weight easier and you have a wider support base, Madson said. But having your hands out can also increase the risk for fractures in the hand and the wrist if you do fall.

“By trying to stop your fall by putting a hand out, you are probably at more risk of fracture … than rolling into a ball,” Madson said, recommending rolling more into a ball if you fall.

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