By analyzing various conditions - like snow, wind speed, temperature - into a ‘Slipperiness Score,' a University of Michigan Health System study helps identify what days are the most risky for slip and fall injuries.
The study, published in February's Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, focuses on Medicaid patients, all over age 65, but authors note, the risk of falling exists for anyone during harsh winter weather.
"Although the concept that slippery footing increases your risk of falling isn't new, what we've been able to show is that these dangerous conditions result in more fractures in this already vulnerable population of adults," says lead study author Aviram Giladi, M.D., a resident in the U-M Department of Surgery.
The study findings include:
Nearly 90,000 Medicare enrollees sustain wrist fractures each year, frequently from falls while standing and usually while outdoors. The fractures can be quite limiting, and lead to a loss of independence among older patients. The cost of treating the injuries tops $240 million a year.
"Understanding the risk of these injuries can help inform prevention and preparation efforts, especially on days where the weather is bound to result in more slippery conditions," says senior study author and hand surgeon Kevin C. Chung, M.D., professor of plastic surgery and orthopedic surgery and the Charles B. G. de Nancrede Professor of Surgery. "We hope to help people prepare for risky conditions and adjust where and when they walk outdoors."
Additional authors: Melissa J. Shauver, M.P.H.; Allison Ho, B.S.; Lin Zhong, M.D., M.P.H.; H. Myra Kim, Sc.D., all of the University of Michigan.
Reference: "Variation in the incidence of distal radius fractures in the U.S. elderly as related to slippery weather conditions," Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, February 2014, Vol. 133; Issue 2.
Funding: National Institute of Health's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging.
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