WESTBOROUGH, MA The joy of falling in fresh clean snow is lost on no man or woman. Making angels in the snow is a fun activity born in childhood that may be enjoyed by playful adults as well. We laughed at the Boston College Eagle men’s ice hockey player who joyously made snow angels on the ice after scoring a winning goal. There have been snow angels on the snow covered turf in Foxborough, MA during a snowy N.E. Patriots football game as well. In November 2013, the Seattle University Red Hawks men’s Division I soccer teams won it’s first round match in the snow against Creighton. As one might expect some euphoric players took it upon themselves to leave snow angels in their place.
Snow angels represent a child-like micromoment of joy that suggests freedom and whimsy. But there are times when snow and ice represent something other that feelings of joy. When a person falls in snow they run the risk of traumatic brain injury from what may seem like a benign bump on the head. Care should be taken for patients taking blood thinners as these can render them at increased risk for bleeding.
Gait Disturbance and loss of balance
The risk of falls grows as people age with each decade in life. Changes in balance and walking may signal the increased risk for injury due to falls and may be brought to the attention of primary care physicians. Falls present a complex problem for the elderly and those who have grown infirm. They may signal brain and circulatory anomalies that can be treated. Many falls are linked to a drop in blood pressure, middle ear affliction, and possibly vascular changes causing sensory loss. The most notable cause of fall among an older population is medications. Changes in balance among a younger population of athletes may sometimes signal a head and neck injury and are often linked to acute or chronic substance abuse. In contrast to those who might fall while playing, when an elderly person fall he risks head and neck injury that might leave lingering symptoms like fractures, dislocated extremities, muscle strain or tear, and even bleeding in the brain. While working on the ambulance I have answered many calls for a person down – someone who has fallen.
There are many reasons why a sudden fall may represent something to worry about. Not the least of which is the rare possibility that one may strike the head and cause a condition known as subdural or subarachnoid hemmorrhage. These represent a life threatening condition that is sometimes initially masked by what appears to be normal functioning. Later a slow bleed renders them unconscious andin need of emergency neurosurgery. Actress Natasha Richardson died from a benign fall while standing at the bottom of the bunny slope while she was learning to ski in 2009.
A sudden onset of poor balance is not always a medical emergency. Ambulation and the system of verticality is what sets us apart from primates. Whether or not you are the type of person who likes making snow angels remember that any fall from the standing position or higher can cause a significant neuological impact. Falling backward into fresh fallen snow is not likely to bring you pain and may even result in a few moments of joy. Highly recommended at any age. But hard falls onto carpet or worse onto any hard surface may certainly be a true emergency. So when you are out and about and feel like you are going to fall – fall soft and leave no impression.