The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) warns that Autumn and Winter is the peak time for trips and falls. These can lead to sprains, strains and fractures.
This blog looks at some of the common causes of accidents and considers how you can prevent yourself from becoming one of the injury statistics this winter. If you are unfortunate enough to get injured, it summarises some of the possible treatments you might be offered.
Key causes of winter injuries
Icy conditions and winter weather are one of the primary causes of injuries at this time of year but there are other factors too. Light levels are at their lowest during the winter months, with the shortest day of the year in December.
A study published in Age and Ageing in 2016 revealed that there is a 15.6% increase in hip fractures among older people during this month.
The authors concluded, while it might be natural to think that the spike in fractures was weather-related, this was probably not the case. They point to the fact that a high proportion of the accidents occurred among people living in care homes. They suggested that it was more likely to be caused by poor light levels at the darkest time of year, indicating a link between low levels of ambient light, poor vision and falls.
Ice, frost and snow, and wet and decaying leaves are also a primary cause of winter injuries.
So, how can you protect yourself and reduce the risk of injury?
Prevention of winter injuries
The HSE recommends good levels of lighting both inside and outside buildings. It advises that fallen leaves should be regularly removed and not left on the ground to become wet or start to decay. Not only do fallen leaves become slippery but they can also hide hazards on the ground.
Wet paths and roads can also lead to accidents. The HSE advises using slip resistant materials on external paved areas and installing large absorbent mats by entrances.
If icy weather is forecast, it recommends taking steps to prevent ice forming on walkways or diverting people away from untreated areas. Icy areas can be treated with grit in the form of rock salt. The best time to grit areas is in the evening before the frost settles and/or early in the morning before the area becomes busy. Grit doesn’t act immediately but needs a little time to dissolve into the moisture on the ground.
Treatment of winter injuries
If you are unlucky enough to get injured, the treatment you receive will depend on the type and severity of any damage. Mild strains or sprains can be treated using the RICE method – resting the affected area, ice and compression to reduce swelling, and elevating the affected area above the level of your heart.
If you suspect a more severe injury, particularly if you are unable to put weight on the affected area, you should seek urgent medical help. You will be given a physical examination and may be referred for diagnostic imaging – X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI.
Once you have been diagnosed an orthopaedic surgeon will recommend the best form of treatment. This may involve keeping the area immobilised while it heals, using splints or a brace. You may be offered painkilling medication or injections, physiotherapy or in some cases surgery.
Orthopaedic specialists – Nottingham
Our orthopaedic consultants each specialise in a particular area of orthopaedics, giving you added peace of mind that you are receiving expert medical advice and highly tailored treatment.
BMI The Park Hospital
Sherwood Lodge Drive Burntstump Country Park, Arnold NG5 8RX
Spire Nottingham Hospital
Tollerton Ln, Tollerton, Nottingham NG12 4GA