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September 23rd is National Fall Prevention Awareness Day

By Beth Wolfe, CAGS, ATC

September 23rd is the first day of the fall season and is also National Fall Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD).  Across the United States, groups of advocates and survivors will gather at State Houses and on Capitol Hill to show their support in preventing falls..  Why should Athletic Trainers (ATs) be aware of FPAD?  How can we as a profession prevent a fall?  Let us go to the numbers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that1:

1. Falls result in more than 2.5 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 734,000 hospitalizations and more than 21,700 deaths.

2. Falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for all children ages 0 to 19. Every day, approximately 8,000 children are treated in U.S. emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. This adds up to almost 2.8 million children each year2.

3. In 2013, the total cost of fall injuries was $34 billion.

4. The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.

One may associate a fall with those who are primarily at high risk, specifically those with gait or balance disturbances, or those who are frail, elderly or in poor health.  However, young and physically active people are just as at risk for falls as the elderly.  From simple slips and trips during your activities of daily living, to a fall while participating in sports, falls happen often. Fortunately, they are preventable!

How can we as a profession prevent a fall in our athletic training facility as well as in our personal lives and communities?

1. De-clutter work and treatment spaces.  Move wires, shoes, clothing, bags and equipment away from high traffic areas to prevent tripping.

2. Wear rubber-soled shoes in wet areas (bathroom, shower and near immersion tubs) and avoid slippers and flip flops.  Add grip tape in showers and areas where water collects instead of mats, as mats can slip and move when water accumulates.  Wipe up spills and water quickly to avoid slipping.

3. Ensure all work spaces, hallways, closets and stairways are adequately lit and equipped with handrails, if applicable.

4. If you have children, ensure that you have window guards installed on open windows to prevent a child from falling out of the window.  Installing gates on stairs and at doors with steps is also a great way to prevent a child from falling.

5. DON’T BE IN A RUSH!  Rushing to turn off a hose in a wet room, picking up the phone in another room and carrying too many objects while going up and down stairs (laundry, children, groceries, etc.