5 Tips for Avoiding Falls on the Ice This Winter

Winter is here, with its frigid temperatures, howling winds, and snowy, icy conditions. According to Shelly D. Sedberry, MS, DPM, AACFAS, falls on icy surfaces are a major cause of ankle sprains and fractures. She offers these tips to keep you safe this winter season.

  1. Wear low-heeled boots or overshoes with good traction. High-heeled boots may be in style, but for walking on snow and ice it’s best to forego fashion in favor of safety.
  2. Watch for ice and snow. Holiday winter wonderlands can be beautiful but also dangerous. Watch for ice or snow patches along your trail. The ankle joint can be more vulnerable to serious injury from falling on ice as it accelerates the fall and often causes more severe trauma since the foot can move in any direction after it slips.
  3. As soon as you get inside, remove your boots or dry them well. Snow and ice can remain on shoes, leading to falls indoors. 
  4. Never assume the ability to walk means your ankle isn’t broken or badly sprained. Putting weight on the injured joint can worsen the problem and lead to chronic instability, joint pain and arthritis later in life. It is also possible to have both a fractured and sprained ankle at the same time, and a bad sprain can mask a fracture. It’s best to have an injured ankle evaluated as soon as possible by a foot and ankle surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment.
  5. If you do experience a fall or injury, call a foot and ankle surgeon for prompt evaluation and treatment. Use R.I.C.E. therapy (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) to help reduce the pain and control swelling around the injury in the meantime.

Falls happen quickly. On average less than two seconds elapse between the beginning and end of a fall, so be aware of what you can do to protect yourself in that time. If you fall on an icy spot and hurt your ankle, the best advice is to seek medical attention immediately. This aids in early diagnosis and proper treatment of the ankle injury and reduces the risk of further damage.

Shelly D. Sedberry, MS, DPM, AACFAS, is a podiatrist at Shoal Creek Foot & Ankle Center in Joplin, MO. If you are concerned about an ankle fracture or sprain, call the office at (417) 622-0648 to schedule an assessment. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm. Tuesday night and Saturday morning appointments are available.

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