Ice can mean a tough break
As someone who works out almost daily and eats well, 39-year-old Joan Olson never expected to injure herself simply walking in a parking lot.
But on Jan. 31, that's exactly what happened when she hit a sheet of ice and fell, breaking her fibula.
"I was just going along and hit what looked like a puddle, and it was ice," she said. "That's what I think surprised me the most. I'm not older, so you don't assume walking, a normal thing you do every day, that you're going to hit that and fall."
Contrary to popular belief, the elderly aren't always the most at risk of falling on ice and snow. According to Siegfried Feierabend, a doctor at Heartland Orthopedics, the winter months bring a plethora of ice-related injuries across all age groups.
"It just totally varies," he said. "When kids have time off, when they can get out there and play, where there's good snow, then kids are falling and breaking their wrists or breaking their arms. When it's snowy and church time, some of the older people fall and break their hips, wrists, shoulders."
Feierabend says that because kids often try to catch themselves when they fall, they are more likely to break their wrists and arms. For elderly people, falling often happens so quickly that there is no time to react, which is why hips and shoulders are common injuries. And for the middle-aged, often ankles and legs take the brunt of a fall.
"It's usually people that age who twist their ankles and break their ankles, because they move fast and are in a rush," Feierabend said.
In order to lessen the chance of falls, Feierabend suggests physical activity and a balanced diet.
"If you keep your bones strong, eat healthy, keep your muscles strong and keep your weight down, it's less likely you'll fall later," he said.
While being in good physical shape won't always prevent a fall, it can still pay off in recovery time and abilities. Olson says her involvement in the Crossfit exercise program has made her injury less debilitating than it otherwise may have been.
"Some people take Crossfit as being a more injury-prone type of sport because we do such varied movements, anything from one-legged squats to a one-legged deadlift," she said. "But all the things we do there are completely paying off in my injury because I am one-legged right now. I'm 100 percent self-sufficient. Even though I have a broken leg and a husband and children who want to help me, I don't really need to ask them for help."
After her injury, Olson says she has learned that taking her time is necessary in winter months, regardless of how busy she may be.
"I think it's about slowing down," she said. "Busy is such a common word, but I think that's the number one takeaway for me. Being busy makes everything feel rushed and kind of thoughtless. Now it's about being more present about where I'm at and what I'm doing and paying attention to my surroundings."