Every year, nearly 130 million Americans visit an emergency room for immediate medical attention. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, a startling 21.3% of them, over 8 million, are treated for injuries after a slip and fall accident.
3 Common Slip & Fall Injuries
Nearly 30% of all people who slip and fall will suffer some sort of injury. Many walk away with only minor lacerations and transient pain. But just because most falls only involve the weight of your body and a floor, doesn’t mean they can’t cause severe injury. Floors, after all, are particularly inflexible and unforgiving.
Unfortunately, many common injuries only present symptoms long after the incident that caused them. It’s especially important to listen to your body, take note of any aches and pains, and remain in contact with your doctor throughout a recovery.
1. Bone Fractures
Commonly known as a “break,” bone fractures come in all shapes, sizes, and severities. And while fractures are extremely common (WebMD estimates that the average person will experience two broken bones during their lifetime), they can have life-long consequences. For one, a broken bone can damage surrounding tissue, and weakened muscles often require a period of physical therapy.
Why Do Bone Fractures Happen?
It’s a simple physical principle:
Each bone in your body is strong to a certain degree. Some bones are relatively strong, like leg bones, and others are comparatively weak, like the bones in your ear, which are extremely small. When force is applied to a particular bone, and that force is stronger than the bone’s strength, it will break.
Obviously, medical conditions that weaken bones, like osteoporosis, increase the likelihood of suffering a bone fracture. Among the elderly, for whom slip and fall accidents are particularly damaging, hip fractures can have devastating effects.
Types Of Bone Fracture
The most commonly broken bones? Wrists, ankles and hips. Wrist breaks are commonly associated with slip and fall accidents, as falling people often reach out, in an attempt to “catch” themselves. That’s probably not a great idea, and we’ll find out why below. For now, let’s cover the most common types of fracture.
- Simple fracture – A clean break that does not pierce the skin
- Compound fracture – A break where one, or both, portions of a bone break through the skin.
- Comminuted fracture – A break in which the bone splits into more than two pieces.
- Stress fracture – Not a full break, but a crack that runs along the length of a bone.
- Impacted fracture – A break in which the two portions of a broken bone are smashed into one another.
Simple fractures are fairly easy to treat: reset the bone, apply a cast, and wait. Compound, comminuted, and impacted fractures often require orthopedic surgery and longer periods of recovery. Left untreated, broken bones can damage surrounding tissues, like blood vessels, and may be at risk of infection.
2. Spinal Damage
If you fall onto your back, it’s likely that you’ll suffer some sort of trauma to your spine. But many spinal injuries aren’t actually caused by direct trauma. Instead, they result from excessive or improper stretching of the muscles that support the spine. According to the Christ Hospital Health Network, trying to “catch yourself” during a fall “can be enough to cause deep-muscle strain and sprains – particularly in the lower back.”
Even herniated discs (a term that can be used to describe a wide range of “disc” injuries, including rupture or dislocation) aren’t usually caused by direct force. It’s not the blow that knocks a disc out of place, but twisting muscles. These discs act as a cushion between your vertebrae and, when they’re forced out of alignment, they can place undue pressure on nerves and create intense, radiating pain.
Our spinal muscles are largely responsible for motion, so when they’re injured we can quickly become incapacitated. In severe cases, widespread damage to the nervous system can result in complete, permanent paralysis.
Most spinal injuries begin with the following symptoms:
- Muscle Spasms
Contact your doctor if you experience any of those signs.
3. Head Trauma
The human brain is remarkable, and remarkably important. That’s why it’s protected by a strong shell of bone, your skull, and several soft layers of membrane called meninges. But even with all that added protection, the brain is intensely delicate. Any bump or jolt to the head can lead to cognitive impairment and numerous other serious problems.
According to the Brain Injury Institute, hitting your head is the most serious risk presented by a slip and fall accident and “approximately 35% of brain injuries are caused by falls.”
What Is Traumatic Brain Injury?
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a catch-all term for any injury in which sudden force to the head causes brain damage. Slip and fall accidents that result in TBI generally involve one of the two following mechanisms:
- Pieces of the bone break off and penetrate the skull
- Your brain bumps against the skull, potentially bruising the organ
A brain injury’s severity is determined by the length and depth of unconsciousness directly following an accident. The longer, or deeper, you’re “out,” the greater the damage to your brain. TBI comes in numerous forms; some present clear symptoms, while others are less obvious. You can find more information here.
The National Institutes of Health has a comprehensive list of TBI symptoms, which can be various, seemingly unconnected, and devastating. Some of the most common include:
- Tinnitus (a prolonged ringing in the ears)
- Mood Disturbances
- Cognitive Impairment
- Sensitivity To Light
If you think you may have suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, you most likely require emergency medical care. Prompt attention is essential to your recovery.