Every year in the United States, over 800,000 people suffer injuries from falls that send them to the hospital. Serious injuries, such as traumatic brain injury or fracture, result from approximately one out of every five falls. Your risk of subsequent falls increases after the first time.
However, the types of injuries that can occur due to a slip or trip may depend on the direction that you fall. Different injuries can result from falling backward, forward or sideways, but all may be potentially severe.
Striking your head when falling backward can result in a basilar skull fracture. A fracture at the base of the skull may result in a TBI. It can also cause blood or cerebrospinal fluid to leak out of your cranium. This may result in discharge from your ears or nose or distinctive bruising patterns behind your ears or around your eyes. Falling on your back can also cause compression fractures of your vertebrae or damage your spinal cord.
When you fall forward, you may instinctively put out your hands to try to catch yourself. This can result in a FOOSH injury. FOOSH stands for “fall onto an outstretched hand” and includes multiple fractures and ligament tears involving the hands, wrists and forearms.
If you hit your head during a forward fall, you may sustain fracture(s) of the face and/or jaws. Forward slips, trips or stumbles are the most common cause of facial fractures due to falls. They usually affect the middle third of the face.
Falling sideways is the cause of 95% of all hip fractures. These are especially dangerous for people age 65 or older, over 300,000 of whom go to the hospital for hip fractures in the United States every year. Getting older increases your risk for hip fracture, and the risk is also greater if you are a woman because of the increased likelihood of developing the bone-weakening condition of osteoporosis.