Tips for staying upright on snow, ice

During the winter, slick surfaces "level the playing field" when it comes to fall risk, a doctor says.

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People of all ages are equally prone to slip on snow and ice, says Dr. Elizabeth Phelan, professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine and medical director of the Fall Prevention Clinic at Harborview Medical Center. In that way, she says, those conditions level the playing field.

Falling on an icy surface can result in a range of injuries including ligament and tendon tears, broken bones and concussions. “Research out of Nordic countries and the UK shows that there's double to triple the number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to falls from ice and snow,” Phelan said. 

Even people who have good balance should carefully consider whether it’s necessary to venture out in slippery conditions, she suggested, offering these tips to people who do so:

  • Wear slip-resistant footwear, which can reduce fall injuries by approximately 60%.
  • 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.

Download broadcast-ready soundbites with Phelan discussing tactics to avoid falls in slick winter weather.

UW Medicine