The number one reason that adults over 60 end up in a Hospital Emergency Room is as a result of falling. This recently happened to a 74 year old family member of mine, who ended up in the Emergency Room after breaking a hip from a fall.
The third, fourth and fifth issues of Energy Bites go back three years and cover falling and recovery. I thought I would go back to those early editions and repeat and update them for this blog post, as well as the next two. They were a three part series on falling and recovery, the floor, and balance. This first article is about Gravity and Momentum.
FALLING, PART 1
GRAVITY AND MOMENTUM
By Bob McMillan
If you are entering your 60s, you’ve probably fallen or almost fallen numerous times throughout your life. But when you get older falling can be dangerous. Bones weaken and become more brittle with age so, a fall can easily mean a broken hip, arm or leg.
Falls also hurt. We don’t usually have the luxury of deciding where and when we will fall. Floors are hard. So is ice. So are sidewalks. So is dirt on a hot, dry day. For the purpose of this article, the kind of falls I am talking about generally are from a standing, walking or running position to the floor or ground, not a fall from a two story building.
This article is the first in a series of three, relating to Falling, the Floor, and Balance.
There are two major forces involved in falling: Gravity and momentum. Gravity is the force that creates the downward pull to the ground. Momentum is the speed times mass with which you fall. Together they dictate how hard you will hit the ground as well as the angle and direction you will be going when you hit.
Typically, there are two major causes of falling: Slipping or Tripping. Slipping usually occurs when you fall on a patch of ice or a wet floor. Your feet usually go out from under you and your direction of fall is usually straight down, landing on your hip or back. Tripping, on the other hand, usually occurs when you don’t pick up your feet and trip over a loose light cord, or a tree root if you’re outside. The direction of your “tripping” fall is usually forward. In both cases, the impact force is usually determined by the rate of movement in one direction (forward or sideways), combined with the rate of movement downward as a result of gravity.
There are two ways to stop or recover from a fall. First is to stop the fall before it really gets going. The second is to take one of several possible actions to lessen the impact of the fall.
- Stop the fall before it really gets going.
- Bend your legs fast to lower your center of gravity and reduce the distance to the ground.
- Use the strength in your legs and your core combined to slow or stop the downward momentum.
- Lessen the impact:
- Lower your center of gravity as in number one above
- Tuck and roll. If you trip while moving forward fast, you may not have time for this. I will admit this method saved me from serious injury when I tripped after catching a football from my eldest grandson while running at full speed (not all that fast, I must admit), at age 67.
- Change the direction of movement by twisting, spiraling or rolling sideways.
- “Breakfall” using your forearm and or your forearm and upper arm combined to hit first and dissipate some of the impact. Of course you can bruise or more seriously injure your arm doing this, so it might be the lesser of two evils.
You must have developed the qualities of strength and agility to really be able to recover from a fall. Generally leg strength is most important. You can develop leg strength through movements you do every day as part of your daily life. Walking. Getting up and down from a chair (or other forms of squat). The more strength you have, the easier it is to stay up. Your abdominal and other core strength is also critical during a fall. The first reaction to the beginning of a fall is a natural “bracing” of your abdominal muscles. The stronger the “bracing action”, the easier it is to stop or control the fall.
Stay tuned to Parts 2 and 3 of this series where you will learn “How to Make Friends with the Floor” and “Balance”.
Thanks for reading.
What are Energy Bites? Energy Bites are a series of articles, essays and other material, filled with useful information for independent and active men and women age 60 and up. The purpose is (1) to inspire, motivate, educate and activate seniors to move, exercise and properly fuel their physical bodies, and (2) to “power-up” and cultivate a Come Alive attitude – all with the end goal of preventing or delaying the deterioration or decay of body and mind that comes with neglect and a sedentary lifestyle.