Preventing Handling Falls 01

Tips on Preventing and Handling Falls

Web Development inMotion

Volume 19 · Issue 3 · May/June 2009 | Download PDF

by M. Jason Highsmith, PT, DPT, CP, FAAOP, and Jennifer Latham Robinson

Lower-extremity amputees fall, right? It’s not a question of if, but when.

Preventing Falls

Check your work environment, your home or other places that you frequently visit for potential trip hazards. These might include:

  • Small discrepancies in the floors, like the transition between tile and carpet or exposed wires.
  • Pets. (That’s right, I’m looking at you, Fluffy. It’s gonna be me or you.)
  • Throw rugs. They look great and can really “tie the room together,” but you could end up on the floor along with the rug.

Even small changes in the hardness of the sole of your shoe, such as switching from sneakers to dress shoes, in addition to increasing your height, can affect the stability of a prosthetic knee.

Things to Think About on the Way Down

There is a good way and a bad way to fall. The bad way is to tense up and go down stiff as a board (it’s not easy to relax when you see impending doom, I know).

The good way to fall is to remain flexible, bend at the joints, and try to protect vulnerable body parts. It’s best to have multiple points of impact, like a car. Unless you have been specifically instructed in some other technique by a healthcare provider, your arms can serve as the bumper, leaving your head and hips to suffer less impact.

After the Fall

Again, there’s a right way and a wrong way to react once you’ve fallen. If anyone is nearby, they will probably move to help you back up. This is natural, but if you’ve dislocated a joint, or worse, improper help may make things worse. And if your leg won’t support you, or if you’re dizzy, you could quickly be right back where you started from.

Take a deep breath, and wait a minute. If there is someone waiting to help you, ask them if they see anything out of the ordinary, such as a wound or bleeding.

If you’re still in one piece, probably the best way to get back up is to roll onto your stomach, bring your feet and knees up beneath your torso, and then rise with support from the person nearby. If you‘re alone, it’s probably better to crawl to a nearby steady surface to sit on. Work your way into the seat and perform a further self-assessment in the seat prior to standing.

For More Information

“A Brief Discussion of Falls Among Persons With Amputation of the Lower Extremity” is an online tool for people in the O&P community to learn and share information, technologies and their experiences with others. 360 O&P is a Web-based community focused on empowerment and sharing the latest practical information for patients and professionals.