Falling down the stairs can lead to serious and painful injuries that often require medical treatment. From sprains and fractures to head and back trauma, falling down stairs can damage multiple areas of the body. By understanding the typical injuries, you can be better prepared to prevent falls and know what to do if an accident occurs.
Understanding the Risks
Falls down stairs represent one of the leading causes of home and public space accidental injuries. After all, stairs are frequently used in daily life. Understanding common risk factors helps prevent these dangerous, yet preventable, accidents. As with every type of accident risk, carrying out a proper and comprehensive risk assessment, which identifies risk and implements ‘control measures’ to minimise and reduce the risk to a safe level is crucial.
Rushing & distractions
Rushing and inattention often underlie stair falls. Everyday distractions like checking your phone or carrying laundry and bags preclude carefully watching your step. This lack of focus leads to frequent missteps on stairs that already require coordination even with full attention. Low lighting conditions at night also contribute to reduced visibility that can lead to slips and tumbles. Those with any mobility or visual impairments are even more at risk when using stairs. With full concentration and caution, stairs still pose a risk of falls, but add in multi-tasking, poor lighting and impaired physical ability and the chances of an accident rise significantly. Taking conscious, deliberate care when using stairs can help to counteract these common factors that produce hazardous situations.
Additionally, the condition and layout of the stairs themselves can lead to accidents. Hazards like loose, worn or wrinkled carpeting, uneven steps, and absent or inadequate railings all raise the chances of slips and falls. Slippery conditions from spills, rainwater, snow or ice significantly increase the likelihood of falls (both indoors and outdoors), especially as many steps are made of smooth materials like concrete and become extremely slick when wet or icy. Addressing these environmental risks via maintenance, lighting improvements, and clutter removal helps to provide safer stairwell conditions and reduce fall incidents.
Almost anyone can encounter the risks mentioned above, but taking deliberate care when using stairs, adding safeguards like nightlights or railings, and removing tripping hazards can help to reduce the chance of a harmful tumble or a fall at work.
The Most Common Injuries from Falling Down the Stairs
The act of falling down stairs can have consequences that resonate far beyond the initial shock of the fall itself. Here are some of the most common injuries from falling down the stairs.
Head injuries are one of the most serious risks with stair falls. Any impact upon the head can cause trauma that leads to concussions: the most common type of head injury from a fall. This often leads to symptoms like dizziness, confusion, and memory issues. In more severe cases, skull fractures, bleeding or swelling in the brain can occur, all of which require rapid emergency care to minimise the damage to brain function.
The jolting impact of a fall down stairs can extend to the spinal cord, causing a range of potential injuries. Vertebrae fractures, slipped discs, and nerve compression or damage are common injuries and can result in long-term mobility issues, altering a person’s ability to walk, stand, or perform routine tasks. In the worst cases, spinal cord injury can lead to partial or total paralysis if the cord is severely pinched or severed.
Fractures and Sprains
Stair falls can often fracture bones in the arms, legs, hips, tailbone and wrists that absorb the impact. These injuries can be excruciatingly painful, requiring medical attention and sometimes surgical intervention. The healing process can be lengthy and there is always a chance of complications like improper bone alignment or infection. Sprains to joints like ankles and knees are also common stair fall injuries. These can damage soft tissues like ligaments and tendons; these will normally require rest, ice, compression to treat pain and swelling.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Muscle pulls and strains frequently occur when someone is trying to catch themselves mid-fall. Tendons and ligaments also easily over-stretch or tear. As mentioned above, normal treatment involves RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation to reduce inflammation. Swelling and decreased functionality can also occur – in these cases, proper medical treatment is essential to ensure they heal correctly and and prevent the development of chronic issues.
Safety Tips to Prevent Stair Falls
Many accidents on stairs can be prevented by taking proper precautions. By implementing the following preventive steps, we can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and ensure the safety of ourselves and those around us.
Keep stairs free of objects or other items that pose tripping hazards. Treads and landings should have nothing that obstructs the steps.
Well-lit staircases are crucial, particularly during night-time or in dimly-lit areas. Installing sufficient lighting (night lights or motion sensors) along staircases and ensuring that light switches are conveniently located can make a substantial difference in preventing accidents.
Handrails and Bannisters
These fixtures offer support and stability, helping individuals to maintain their balance while using the stairs. Regular maintenance and secure installation of handrails and bannisters are essential.
Applying anti-slip materials – such as anti-slip tread tape or textured carpet – to steps can greatly reduce the likelihood of accidents caused by wet or slick conditions. These materials provide traction and grip, ensuring a secure footing and reducing the risk of slips and falls.
Wear footwear with textured soles for traction. Avoid wearing loose or slippery footwear while using stairs, as they can increase the risk of accidents.
Falling down the stairs can lead to an array of serious and debilitating injuries. However, implementing preventive measures goes a long way to reducing risks.
Here at The Claims Partnership, we know how devastating injuries from falling down stairs can be. While prevention is key, accidents can still happen even with proper precautions. If you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury from a stair fall, our experienced team is here to help you. We can advise if you may be eligible for compensation to cover treatment costs and recovery for stair fall injuries.