(Simple rules for hitting the ground as softly as possible)
It was nearly 30 years ago that Mrs. Fletcher from the LifeCall commercials first uttered her plaintive cry:
“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”
Back then, it was campy and funny. But in the intervening years, chances are that you, and perhaps
some of your loved ones, have taken some nasty spills. It’s not just the elderly, though, who end up on
the ground: A study in the Journal of Allied Health showed that 50-to- 60-year- olds fall more than older
folks. We’re more active, and that puts us more at risk of falling. Also, the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention found that people are more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury from falling than
from any other cause.
And we’re all going to fall down: The world is full of banana peels. So while avoiding a fall is job one,
knowing how to take a fall when it’s inevitable is a crucial skill.
“Be smooth, don’t panic, stay loose,” says Alexa Marcigliano, who is really good at falling down. A
professional stuntwoman, she’s taken serious spills in shows such as Orange is the New Black and
Blindspot. Here’s her four-point plan for a safe crash landing.
Step 1. Stay Bent…The moment you sense you’ve lost your balance, get ready to fall with bent elbows
and knees. “When people panic, they become rigid,” Marcigliano says. “In the stunt world, we never
reach out with locked arms. Bend your elbows and have some give in your arms to soften the impact.”
When you’re rigid, you’re more likely to suffer a set of injuries called FOOSH—doctor-speak for “Fall on
outstretched hand.” The result is often a broken wrist or elbow.
Step 2. Protect your Head…If you’re falling forward, be sure to turn your face to the side. Falling
backward? “Tuck your chin to your chest, so your head doesn’t hit the ground,” Marcigliano advises.
Step 3. Land on the Meat….”One of the things we try for in stunt falls is landing on meaty parts of your
body—the muscles in your back, butt or thighs. Not bone.” If you keep your knees and elbows bent and
look to land on muscle, you’ll be less likely to crack your elbows, knees, tailbone or hips.
Step 4. Keep Falling…Your instinct will be to stop your body as quickly as you can. But your safest route
is to keep rolling—indeed, the more you give in to the fall, the safer it will be. “Spread the impact across
a larger part of your body; don’t concentrate impact on one area,” Marcigliano says. The more you roll
with the fall, the safer you’ll be.
By Michael Zimmerman for AARP Magazine