Common Winter Slip and Fall Injuries

December 18, 2019

Winter’s cold temperatures are here and for many of us, icy conditions mean a dangerous slip or fall requiring medical attention. Don’t let that be you!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year three million people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries and 800,000 are hospitalized because of an injury from a fall.

Many of these injuries result in broken bones—especially to the hand, wrist and elbow. 

“There is something in our business we call FOOSH,” explains Dr. Xavier Simcock, a hand, wrist and elbow surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. “This is the nickname we give an injury caused by ‘falling onto an outstretched hand.’ They are the most common ones when a person is trying to break a fall.”

Most common winter FOOSH injuries

The most common FOOSH injuries, especially in the winter, are:

  • Scaphoid fracture - a break in one of the eight small bones that make up the wrist. This is one of the most common FOOSH injuries.
  • Distal radial fracture – this occurs where the wrist meets the arm’s radius, the larger of the two long bones in your forearm. 
  • Radial or ulnar syloid fracture - the radial styloid is a bony projection on the thumb-side of your wrist, while the ulnar styloid is a bony projection on the pinkie-side of the wrist. 
  • Distal radial ulnar joint fracture – this is the joint in the wrist where the arm’s large bone, the radius, and its small bone, the ulna, meet. 
  • Radial head fracture - the radial head is at the top of the radius bone, just below the elbow. 


Follow these easy tips to help prevent any of these FOOSH injuries:

  • Allow more time when you are walking. If you are in a rush, your chances of falling increase.
  • If you are walking on ice, bend your knees slightly and take shorter steps or shuffle your feet in a gliding motion.
  • Wear proper footwear for the conditions, including shoes that provide traction on snow or ice.
  • Sprinkle salt or sand over icy areas that are trafficked.
  • Avoid walking with your hands in your pockets or carrying items in your hands. This provides better balance.
  • When getting out of your vehicle, place both feet flat on the ground before standing up - this will give you more stability when getting out.

When to see a medical professional

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if you need to see a doctor after an injury. However, if you can answer yes to any of the questions below, you should seek an experienced hand, wrist and elbow physician right away.

  • Is the pain severe?
  • Does the injured area appear deformed?
  • Is your pain lingering or getting progressively worse?
  • Do you have numbness or tingling?
  • Is your bruising dramatic and spreading outside the area that was injured?

Dr. Xavier Simcock is a hand, wrist and elbow orthopedic surgeon. He completed the Harvard Combined Orthopedic Residency program and graduated with awards in Resident Excellence Award For Teaching and Mentorship, and the William H. Thomas Award—an award for excellence in orthopedics. He was also selected by the AOA as an Emerging Leader. Dr. Simcock is one of the first five physicians in the country sponsored by the ASSH to complete training in shoulder to fingertip surgery which involved completing two specialty fellowships; The first in hand and microsurgery, and the second in shoulder surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.