‘Ice and snow mean take it slow’ to lower risk of falling

Kristina Cosley, a physical therapist at the Fall Prevention Clinic at Harborview, says the slick, icy conditions that winter storms bring cause falls that result in injuries and patient visits.

“After a big winter storm, (up to) a month or so later, we'll get patients who come in,” she said. “The people we’re most concerned about are people who are 65 and older. We know that, at baseline, without the ice, they have about a 30% (higher) chance of falling.”

Others facing higher risk include people with balance impairment, those who have difficulty walking or who rely on assistive devices such as a cane or walker, and people who have recently suffered an orthopedic injury or undergone surgery.

A fall on an icy surface can result in a wide range of injuries including ligament and tendon tears, broken bones and concussions.

“If you’re in a higher risk category, just avoiding going outside at all (during icy conditions) is best,” Cosley said. “If you need basic supplies like food or groceries, if you can ask a friend or family member to bring them, or rely on some of these great grocery delivery services, it could really be helpful.”

More of Cosley’s tips for everyone traversing icy conditions:

  • Wear footwear with good traction.
  • Test a spot that may be icy by slowly walking more flat-footed on the surface.
  • Keep your hands free and out of your pockets in case you need to balance or brace yourself.
  • Limit the number of items you’re carrying to ensure better balance.
  • Avoid looking at your phone while walking.
  • While getting in and out of a car, move more slowly than usual and use the car for support.

Download broadcast-ready soundbites featuring Cosley's advice to avoid falls on ice.

UW Medicine