Falling is easy… not in love, but on the floor, and catching yourself is hard.
We’ve all taken a tumble or two at some point – on the road, in the drain, off the bed, at the gym, from the stairs, while partaking in physical activity, etc.
When we’re young, it’s fun, painless and makes us giggle. In a split second, we’re upright again.
When the grey hairs start to sprout and we’re not as limber as we once was, gravity often wins the battle and we stay down for a longer time.
If we’re lucky, we can escape with a few bruises and soreness. Otherwise, well, you’ll finally discover the meaning of agony.
Although often associated with older people, falls can occur at any age and are apparently the most common cause of injury seen in emergency rooms in the United States.
Unless it’s accidental, we fall when we experience some kind of event that challenges our balance or strength. If this event overwhelms your ability to remain upright, down you go.
Hazards within the home often contribute to a fall, but more often than not, falls are caused by personal risk factors such as blackouts, fainting or loss of consciousness, drinking too much alcohol, vision or hearing problems, and some bladder or bowel conditions.
There is actually a right way to fall – it’s just that the majority of people don’t know how to. No one pays attention to how you fall; only what happens after you land wrongly on a hard surface or suffer from a mishap.
Ask any martial arts instructor or stunt professional and they will tell you that falling correctly is an art that can be learnt.
Dancers learn the technique from the very beginning – tuck your chin, curl your body and avoid hitting your head to minimise the blow.
Most importantly, as ridiculous as it sounds, relax your body. If you stiffen the body, your muscles contract and you’re more likely to injure yourself. Obviously, having some degree of flexibility helps to protect the joints.
While our natural instinct tells us to stop the fall as quickly as possible, the safest route is to keep rolling.
If you recall the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Brazilian football superstar Neymar not only fell, but rolled himself over and over again on the pitch.
Audiences watched in horror, expecting him to break something. But knowing his tendency to indulge in histrionics, no one else paid him any attention; he got up unscathed and walked as if nothing happened.
Rolling spreads the impact across the body. While rolling, extend your arms with palms facing down and slap the ground to stop yourself – hopefully, you’re not rolling down a hill.
Experts also advise to fall on the fleshiest part of the body so that the impact on the bones is reduced.
Our inclination is to catch ourselves with the hands or knee, but these are hard bones and more likely to break. A fleshy surface acts as a natural padding as it will absorb some shock.
Falling on your back does more damage than falling face down as there is a higher risk of damaging your spine and vital organs.
If you find yourself in this situation, think fast and pivot your body sideways. If you’re falling forward, try to turn your face to the side.
You can also follow the late Elliot Royce’s secret to safe falling – bend, twist and roll.
In a 2015 interview with the Star Tribune, the American, then 96, said he would fall on purpose at least five times every morning. It was part of his daily routine, just like shaving and brushing his teeth.
He would pull his air mattress out of the closet and practise safe falls. The reason he did this was so that he’d react instinctively should he lose his balance.
“Once you start to fall, you don’t have time to think about what to do,” he was quoted as saying. “You’re going to have about one second to figure it out, so you better have some plans.”
Not one to sit idle, Royce also took an hour-long trampoline class three times a week. In addition to being good exercise, the trampoline training dovetailed nicely with his safe-falling programme.
While you can’t prevent all slips, there’s plenty you can do to improve your footing. Here are three tips from the American Association of Retired Persons:
• Be here now. Practise mindfulness – focus on the present and be aware of your surroundings, instead of being lost in your thoughts.
• Fix your blind spots. If you can’t see it, you can’t avoid tripping over it. Have your eyesight and eyeglasses checked regularly.
• Boost your balance. Stand with your feet together. Raise one foot an inch; hold for 30 seconds. Do this for 10 reps. Repeat with your other foot.
Save your body and fall in style. If all else fails, scream on your way down. Someone might catch you or help you break the fall.