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Giving Winter Walks the Slip

Don't fall into an injury when the ice comes

SATURDAY, Nov. 22, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- There may be a good reason why penguins shuffle their feet when they walk: It's one way to guard against slipping and falling on the ice.

OK, we're not really sure that's the basis for the gait of those flightless denizens of the Antarctic. But taking short steps or shuffling over slippery areas is certainly one way you can protect yourself against a potentially serious fall this winter.

Your wrists and arms are especially susceptible to fractures and other injuries in such falls because your natural response is to thrust out your arms to break your fall. Instead, you should try to roll into your fall with sequential contacts at your thigh, hip and shoulder, says the University of Iowa.

But do your best to avoid having to look like an action hero. Here are some tips from the university on how to safely walk and stay upright on slippery winter surfaces:

  • When you're walking to work or doing errands in the winter, plan your route and give yourself plenty of time to get where you're going so you don't have to rush. Your footwear should have rubber or neoprene soles that provide traction on snow and ice. Don't wear shoes or boots with plastic or leather soles.
  • Stay on designated walkways. Don't take shortcuts over snow piles or areas that aren't cleared of snow and ice. If a sidewalk is covered with ice, try to walk along the grassy edge for traction.
  • If you have no choice but to walk on icy or slippery areas, take short steps or shuffle your feet. Bend your body slightly and walk flat-footed, keeping your center of gravity over your feet as much as possible. Be prepared to fall and roll into the fall as much as possible.
  • If your feet shoot out from under you and you're falling backward, bend your back and head forward so your head doesn't smack on the pavement or ground.
  • Be careful getting in and out of your vehicle. Use the vehicle for support.

More information

To get more winter walking safety advice, go to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

SOURCE: Iowa State University
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