Medical City Healthcare - March 08, 2017

As kids, we climbed things and jumped off of them. We tested our balance, strength, agility and coordination and mostly, we conquered all we surveyed. A broken bone was a minor inconvenience and more importantly, a badge of honor and another campfire story. Then we grew up.

As adults, most of us not only avoid climbing and jumping at all costs, but we actually fear falling and its consequences, among them a possible trip to the emergency room. And with good reason. According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. Younger adults are injured frequently from falls, too — off of ladders.

Anyone can be injured falling off of a ladder.

In 2017, the Consumer Products Safety Commission reported that falls from ladders and stools caused:

  • 270,000 ER visits
  • Almost 42,000 hospitalizations and/or deaths

Melanie Leonard, RN, Trauma Program Manager at Medical City North Hills, says that the most common ladder injuries her team sees include:

  • Broken limbs
  • Broken backs
  • Broken pelvises
  • Head injuries

"All of these can be life-threatening and have life-changing results," she said.

Whether it's an older adult or a younger person, a bad fall can mean the end of independent living. This is why it's so important to take ladder safety seriously. Nurse Leonard says there are four major reasons people get hurt on ladders.

4 major ladder missteps that can lead to injuries:

  • Selecting the wrong ladder for the job
  • Using a damaged or worn-out ladder
  • Using a ladder incorrectly
  • Placing a ladder incorrectly

To help you get a handle on these common ladder mistakes, download the CDC's free, award-winning NIOSH Ladder Safety App.

Nurse Leonard's tips for general ladder safety.

  • Never climb a ladder when you're dizzy
  • Always wear close-toed, nonslip shoes — no flip-flops ever!
    • In addition to posing a threat of slipping or foot injuries, wearing flip-flops and other non-supportive shoes while climbing or standing on ladders can cause painful foot problems, such as plantar fasciitis
  • Inspect ladders before use to make sure they're in good working condition
  • Check your ladder's weight restrictions and remember to add the weight of any objects you're carrying
  • Place ladders on firm, level, dry ground
  • One person at a time on ladders, please, and use a spotter to steady the ladder
  • Always have three points of contact on a ladder — 2 feet and 1 hand
  • If you need to place a ladder in front of a door, open the door so that people don't knock you off (or run into the ladder) when they go through it

For more ladder safety tips, watch Nurse Leonard's video.

Fall prevention for older adults.

In 2014, 29 million older Americans reported falling. Of those, 7 million reported injuries. As baby boomers age — 10,000 turn 65 every day — the number of senior falls continues to rise. The CDC expects the number of fall-related injuries and deaths to surge as a result.

Here are some tips for older adults to protect themselves from the consequences of falling:

  • Tell your doctor if you have fallen in the past year, feel unsteady on your feet or are concerned about falling
  • Ask your doctor if any of your medications could make you more prone to dizziness or falls
  • Ask your doctor if you need a vitamin D supplement to help prevent muscle weakness and increase bone strength
  • Don't fall because you can't see; visit your eye doctor at least once a year and update contacts/eyeglasses as needed
  • Work on your balance and leg strength; consider Tai Chi or yoga, but always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program
  • Keep your home safer by removing tripping hazards

If you or someone in your family takes a tumble, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you or visit Medical City Virtual Care for non-emergency medical treatment from your computer or smartphone.

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Revised 10/23/2018

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