Unintentional falls are one of the most common causes of injury in Canada. In 2017, according to a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), falls resulted in almost 1,800 emergency room visits and 417 hospital admissions every day. In 2016-17, nearly 654,000 of the more than 2-million injury-related emergency department visits across Canada were due to accidental falls.
With winter now upon us, icy sidewalks and slippery streets mean the threat of unintentional falls increases exponentially. In 2016-17, there were nearly 9,000 hospitalizations in Canada due to slips and falls on ice.
The most common injuries sustained from falls on ice are broken or fractured bones, with many injuries impacting the hips, head, shoulders or upper arms, followed by the knees or lower legs. Patients who are hospitalized due to unintentional falls also spend more time in the hospital compared to the other inpatients — the average hospital stay following a fall was 14.3 days compared to 7.5 days for all other hospitalizations. Treating falls is also incredibly expensive. In 2018, falls had a higher total cost to treat than any other cause of injury in Canada, costing our healthcare system $10.3 billion.
Seniors at high risk
Seniors face the greatest risk of incurring a serious injury after a fall, due in part to brittle bones and fragile blood vessels. In 2019, 4 out of 5 injury hospitalizations involving seniors were due to falls, with one study finding that older adults were three times as likely to die following a low-level fall compared to individuals younger than 70. Often, even minor injuries sustained from a fall can require a lengthy hospitalization and prevent seniors from regaining the mobility they once had.
Proper footwear is essential to minimizing the risk of falling during the winter season. Look for winter boots with a thick tread and non-skid surface that provide plenty of grip on icy walkways. When walking, go slow and take small, careful steps. If you use a cane or walker, consider adding an ice pick for enhanced grip.
Hurt in a fall? If you’ve been seriously injured, seek medical help right away. If you’d like to speak to one of our doctors, book a virtual appointment today.