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  • Heidi Blackie

Falls Don't Just Happen to Older Adults

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

September is fall prevention month, and, while most of the emphasis in this area targets older adults, there is a growing evidence that falls are happening more in middle-aged people too. The effects may not be as severe as in older populations, but are enough to impact all aspects of function.

Have you or anyone you know fallen in the past year? If you have, you are not alone.

Did you know:

  • Falls are the third cause of accidental deaths across all ages (CDC).

  • One quarter of all traumatic brain injuries are due to falls, with a large percentage sustained by children, adolescents and young adults.

  • The most common activity interrupted by a fall across all age groups is walking.

According to one study, 1:10 adults between age 40-50 had a serious fall within the year of being surveyed, while another found 1:4 middle-aged adults fell at least once in a two year period.

Anecdotally, in my years of treating upper extremity injuries, I have seen many fall related injuries in people of all ages—fractures, dislocations, nerve injuries, and soft tissue injuries—from shoulder to fingertip. Falling on the ground, off ladders, out of trees, tripping on curbs, ice, Seattle sidewalks, crosswalks and being yanked by their dogs. For many, recovery was long and resulted in varied levels of function regained.

I fell while running a couple years ago and it took a year before my knee was back to 100%. Reflecting back on the circumstances surrounding my fall, I was fatigued, not paying attention and obviously wasn’t picking up my feet.

There is no question that as we age, injuries take longer to heal, and, unless we are challenging ourselves, our strength, balance, coordination and cognition declines. All of this can contribute to the likelihood of falling and make recovery from a fall more difficult.

While falls in older populations account for the most injury related deaths, they can significantly impact all aspects of life in people of any age.

What factors contribute to falls?

  • Most falls are the result of several components—environmental, physical and behavioral—coming together rather than just one thing. For example, being distracted and walking on an uneven sidewalk or stepping off a curb.

  • Vision impairment is another factor, especially among middle-aged people because that is when changes happen in our eyes.

  • Lower activity levels lead to reduced strength, coordination and balance, even sensing where your body is in space.

What can you do to prevent falls?

  • Pay Attention! I see a lot people walking around with their attention on other things instead of where they are going. I see them step into crosswalks with traffic buzzing by, walk into phone poles, bike racks and almost into me. You don’t have to stare at the sidewalk, but just have an awareness of the path ahead.

  • Strengthen your balance, coordination and side to side movement to increase your odds of recovering your balance before you hit a lower surface. Challenge your nervous system with different types of movement at varied tempos.

  • Get your vision checked.

  • Wear a headlamp if you are out in the dark.

We teach fall prevention classes locally. Contact us to find out when the next one is starting up, or if you want to have a class taught at your organization.

Looking for ways to improve your balance, strength and coordination? We can help you with that too!

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