News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Walk like a penguin on the ice

According to the National Safety Council (NSF), 25,000 slip, trip, and fall accidents occur daily in the United States.

Nearly all injuries from slips and falls on snow and ice fall under the classification of “traumatic injuries.” These injuries range from minor bruises, cuts, and abrasions to serious bone fractures, spinal cord damage, and concussions, according to the NSF.

Health care professionals warn that slipping and falling accounts for a large number of winter-related injuries, and can have an impact on the quality of life for the injured person. The most common injuries encountered as a result of slipping on the ice are head injuries, as well as fractured arms, legs, and hips.

Falls commonly occur when a person is getting out of their vehicle or walking in a parking lot or on a sidewalk.

In the month of November, 179 patients visited St. Charles urgent care clinics and emergency departments throughout the region due to concerns about injuries related to falling on ice. This is significantly higher than last November when they had only nine patient visits related to falls on ice.

From October 1 until last Friday, St. Charles had 347 total visits for injuries related to falling on ice this year. They are on pace to exceed last year when they recorded a total of 437 for the entire season of October through March.

In a special report prepared for The Nugget, Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District EMS units responded to 1,029 incidents between January 1 and November 15 of which 162 were fall related. Only eight were due to ice conditions, a number that will grow as the cold weather persists.

The vast majority of falls from ice do not require emergency assistance, with most patients driving themselves to the emergency room or urgent care.

Of all falls to which the District responded, 102 falls occurred at home (includes nursing homes); 129 were patients over the age of 60 (33 under 60); females accounted for 89 of the falls, while males accounted for 73.

As we age, falls increase due to balance issues, arthritic joints, and reduced muscle mass.

Chief Roger Johnson said: “In regards to words of wisdom, prevention is the key. Using ice melt or other anti-slip material such as bird seed, sand, etc. can prevent falls. There are also a lot of anti-slip devices that go on over your shoes. Our firefighters use these over their firefighting boots when working on icy roadways.”

Bi-Mart has no shoe traction devices of any kind —“still waiting” for a supply with no information on when they will clear the backlog.

Sisters Ace Hardware and Hoyt’s Hardware & Building Supply each have a limited stock of Yaktrax, the leading national brand. Both say that they are still waiting for a new supply. Other shops in Sisters like Hike-N-Peaks may have some traction devices.

Doris Minor was pulled down by her dog while walking. Emergency departments say this is not uncommon and advise not walking your pet on ice.

The best key to prevention? Walk like a penguin. The Farmer’s Almanac, which provides annual weather forecasts among a collection of other useful information, says people who live in colder climates are more acclimated to walking on icy surfaces because they have learned to walk like a penguin.

To walk like a penguin, do the following:

Bend slightly and walk flat footed. Keep your center of gravity over your feet as much as possible. Point your feet out slightly – just like a penguin does. Shuffle your feet and take short steps. Pay attention. Don’t get distracted. Watch where you are stepping. Concentrate on keeping your balance. Keep your arms at your sides and hands out of your pockets. Go slowly and don’t walk with arms full of groceries or packages.

Summit Health Urgent Care in Redmond also wants us to protect our heads first. If you feel yourself beginning to fall, tuck your chin against your chest to prevent your head from hitting the ice or pavement. Cradle your arms around your head.

As you fall, try to fold your body into itself, which helps to decrease the height of the fall.

When you hit the ground, roll and exhale sharply to tense up your body, and allow for it to absorb the impact.

Never try breaking a fall by bracing yourself with your hand as it likely will only result in a sprain or a break.

The greatest number of falls on ice occur getting out of a car, when we are naturally unbalanced, and relying on one foot. Try this. While still seated scooch 90 degrees toward the door, then plant both feet on the ground and hold on to the car door as you exit. Don’t worry about looking stupid or old.

The Nugget did a walk around the central business district and found a surprising number of businesses who have not cleared their sidewalks which are now caked with uneven ice.


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