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I fall down a lot

Posted Sep 14 2008 3:39pm

Tonydanzafall By age 15 I had suffered at least 22 broken bones. There's nothing metabolically wrong with me or my bones. I like to tell people that I was very good at doing stupid things. For instance, I broke several bones in my hands when curiosity got the best of me and I willfully dropped from the playground apparatus to the ground at age 4. Then there's me at age 10 chasing a bouncy ball down the stairs and forgetting to walk all the way down . . . my dog-like behavior resulting in a few broken foot bones that time.

You see, I earned all my fractures. Most involved a fall. Some involved collisions. Today I still find that I fall quite a bit. For this I am very lucky. Yes, I'm serious. Falling down can be a good thing.

Kids are meant to fall. A toddler bouncing from surface to surface is a part of motor learning that we all must go through. A toddler probably falls down about 20 times a day, but suffers no lasting injury from the frequent trips to the ground. In comparison, a 60 year old sedentary female is almost assured of a life-threatening hip fracture when she falls. What's happened in the mean time? Is risk of injury from falling something that increases linearly with age? Or, is there something more simple in play? Celebrityfall

The 60 year old woman may not have fallen down in 50 years! Of course, we could not expect her to have any skill at falling, being so out of practice as she was. I'm suggesting falling is a skill, one we could all improve on...if we're older than a toddler.

In most martial arts, the first session of training usually included instructions to fall. Most extreme sports athletes fall regularly in grand fashion, but rarely suffer serious injury. (Which is what makes Tara Llanes injury so unexpected.) Check out this video of an extreme fall and tell me you don't see skill at play here (be patient, the skill view is in the last 13 seconds of the video). 50% of people who fall from that height expire. This guy walked off! Personally, I once observed a friend conduct a controlled fall over 500 feet and 30 seconds of a near-vertical hillside and escape injury (though I do refer to that story as "the time Erik went so fast he cried").

We spend hours in rehabilitation clinics and education working to prevent falls. We never practice them. I practice them often. Just about every 2 mountain-bike rides results in a crash of some sort. I still like to play with the dog and dive and fall after him. I think the reason I no longer break bones is that I've acquired some skills in falling.

Fall_2503_wideweb__470x2630_2 In one glorious demonstration of my falling skills, I found myself out of control on my bike traveling straight down a ski slope during a race. I couldn't make the next turn, so I plowed head first into the hay bales. I flipped off my bike, becoming detached from it somehow. I landed, flipped, rolled, and ended up on my knees facing back up the hill...just in time to catch my cart-wheeling bike. A quick inventory told me we were both ok (bike and self) and so on I went, earning a noble passage from a stunned competitor following close behind.

The point of this insight into my personal tumbles is that I often think rehabilitation should include fall practice. Perhaps after practicing in a controlled and safe manner, the fall that we couldn't prevent doesn't need to become a disaster. The trick would be balancing fall practice with real motor control deficits that have provided the impetus to fall in the first place.


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