According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fall injuries send 3 million older Americans to the hospital every year. While a fall injury can be severe at any age, the elderly tend to be more vulnerable to serious injuries.
A severe injury from a fall can have potentially life-changing consequences. The following are three potential injuries from a fall that can not only be very serious but that are also fairly common.
1. Hip fractures
There is a strong association between hip fractures and the elderly population. The reason is that as a person ages, his or her risk for hip fracture increases. Fall accidents result in 95% of all hip fractures. The risk is greater when the fall is in a sideways direction. Hip fractures hospitalize over 300,000 people over the age of 65 in the U.S. every year. Though both men and women can experience a fracture of the hip, the risk is significantly greater for the latter population.
2. Head injuries
During a fall, an elderly person can strike his or her head on the ground or on another surface or object. If the force of the blow is strong enough, it can result in a serious head injury, possibly resulting in brain damage. Striking the back of the head can cause a basilar skull fracture, which is the most serious type.
A blow to the head can also cause bleeding in the brain. The blood can collect in a mass called a hematoma that puts pressure on the neural tissue. Bleeding and hematoma can be more serious in someone who takes anticoagulant medications.
3. Spinal cord injuries
A fall onto the back can either damage a person’s spinal cord directly or disrupt the bones and other tissues that surround it. In the latter case, the fractured or damaged tissue can compress or sever the spinal cord. This can cause neurological symptoms up to and including permanent paralysis. A person with a suspected spinal cord injury from a fall should not move to avoid further damage.