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Most of us in the northeast can relate to a painful fall on the ice. And those with children may be all too familiar with tripping over toys on the floor. Every year, more than one million Americans suffer a slip and fall injury. These types of injuries can happen in any location and, in an instant, can result in a broken wrist, ankle or hip. Leo Troy, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, explains several ways to prevent and treat these accidents.

Prevention
“Avoiding throw rugs, wearing appropriate footwear and installing grip handles in corridors and showers are just a few of the things people can do to help prevent indoor injuries,” Dr. Troy says. “To help prevent outdoor injuries, avoid going outside when it is icy, wear appropriate footwear for the weather, and salt walkways.”

Injuries
Common injuries that occur from slip and fall accidents include the following:

  • Contusions occur when a part of the body sustains a direct blow from a fall and the underlying muscle fibers and connective tissue are crushed without breaking the skin. Most contusions can be successfully treated with rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE).
  • Sprains occur when the ligaments are stretched beyond what they are capable of or broken. Treatment usually involves bracing or splinting.
  • Fractures (also referred to as breaks or cracks) occur when the bone cannot withstand outside pressure. Treatment depends on the pattern of the fracture, but may involve surgery.

“If the injury results in pain, but you can still function normally, you can try home treatments, such as rest, ice, compression and elevation,” says Dr. Troy. “However, if the injury results in a deformity or loss of function, or if you are able to function normally but have pain that does not respond to RICE, you need to seek medical help immediately.”

Hip Fractures
Although hip fractures can happen to anyone, people over age 60 are at greater risk. Hip fractures are a serious injury and should be evaluated right away. Treatment depends on the type of break that occured and can range from relatively minor surgery to a hip replacement. Following surgery, most people need to undergo physical therapy in a rehabilitation facility before returning home. Recovery can be the most challenging part of a hip fracture. However, following your care team’s instructions can help facilitate recovery.

Mount Auburn Hospital’s team approach also aids in a quicker recovery. “An entire care team is involved to help patients recover and prevent future injury,” Dr. Troy says. “Our medical teams include doctors, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists that are all dedicated to helping patients get better so they can return home to their everyday lives and prevent recurring injuries.”

For a free Mount Auburn Hospital physician directory, please call us at 617-499-5094.