That slippery combination provides the perfect recipe for orthopedic disaster, mainly broken bones. Two frequent and common types of injuries that can occur as a result of snow and ice are fractures of the ankle, and the dreaded hip fracture.
While ankle fractures can occur at virtually any age, hip fractures are more commonly seen in people over the age of 50 and primarily in senior citizens. The incidence of ankle and hip fractures dramatically increases as the winter weather worsens. Fractures can be caused from falls indoors as well. Adult ankle fractures can take eight to 12 weeks to heal, and can often require surgery to restore bone fragments.
Some sobering statistics about hip fractures: 40 percent of falls that require hospitalization involve the hip, and approximately half of the people who sustain a hip fracture never regain their pre-fall activity levels.
Here are a few things you can do to help decrease the risk of sustaining one of the above-mentioned fractures:
Beware of what you can’t see. We’ve all heard the term “black ice.” It is a term given to the formation of a thin coating of ice that develops on pavement (streets and sidewalks) when temperatures hover right around the freezing mark. It can be particularly dangerous for driving and walking. All too often, this black ice can be covered by a thin layer of frost or snow, making that slippery patch all but impossible to see.
For all you “Boomers” and “older” folks (and yes, I’m right there with you), this translates into being extra careful to evaluate where you are heading and make sure that you stay on cleaned and, preferably salted, walkways. Be mindful where you step in areas where there is patchy snowfall, as in parking lots, especially after a wet snow or light rain. You never know what lurks below. Walking over icy surfaces without being prepared puts you in a position to end up, “end up”; right on your hip.
Give winter the boot. When going outside, you may want to consider wearing winter boots, preferably with slip-resistant soles. Shoes with hard smooth heels and leather soles are exceptionally slippery on ice. Shoes and slippery soles increase the risk of twisting ankles on icy surfaces, thus increasing the potential for fractures.
People of all ages need to be extra careful on icy and snow-covered surfaces. While it is true that younger persons do have better recovery during a slip and can many times avoid injury, we are all subject to the ravages of winter. The bottom line, footwear that is more weather-appropriate may save you a lot of pain and suffering in the long run.
The more help, the better. For those that require some level of assistive devices when walking, such as a cane or walker, remember that four legs are definitely better than one when navigating the icy outdoors. Walkers are safer and more stable than a single legged cane, so even if you use a cane around the house and in the malls, a walker can save you a lot of heartache getting in and out of a car and in parking lots.
There’s no substitute for using “the old noggin.’” The take-home message is this - if nothing else, use common sense when deciding about venturing outside in cold, snowy and icy winter weather. Use the right clothing and footwear, and look before you step, so you won’t become another winter fracture statistic.
Chisholm’s expertise in nursing, orthopedics and surgery spans more than thirty years. He holds multiple national certifications in these specialties. His goal is to empowering people through education and information to become more engaged, proactive and responsible in their orthopedic health, and health care.