Stairs are commonplace in homes, office buildings, retail developments, public facilities, and much more. That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily easy for everyone to use or that they will not suffer injuries from even the slightest misstep.
According to a 23-year study by the National Library of Medicine, there are on average over 1 million stair-related injuries every year. While 60% of these accidents occurred at home, it does not mean that these accidents were less severe; 6% of accidents required hospitalization for further medical care. When you consider that 42.1% of injuries were in the lower extremities and 21.6% were to the head/neck it gives you perspective on the dangers that can occur from falling down stairs.
These injuries can result in pain and suffering, long-term disability, and loss of the ability to work. Unfortunately, falling down the stairs is all too common: the National Safety Council ranks stairway falls second only to motor vehicle accidents as a leading cause of accidental injury in the United States.
Some injuries that commonly result from stair falls include:
- Fractures and broken bones
- sprains and strains
- Bruises and contusions, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
Unless the fall is the result of the injured party’s negligence or fault, such a fall could result in a lawsuit to seek compensation for damages.
Injuries Sustained from Falling Down the Stairs
While some of the injuries resulting from a fall down stairs can be fairly minor, other injuries can be more severe and require medical attention. Consider the following injuries that can be sustained from falling down the stairs:
- Head, neck and spine injuries – The National Library of Medicine reports that 21.6% of stair-related injuries involve the head and neck. These injuries can be among the most severe, with lasting impacts such as nerve damage, severe headaches, loss of motor function, and more.
- Cuts & lacerations – All too often, if you hit your head when falling down the stairs or catch your skin on an exposed nail while falling this could result in a deep tear of the skin.
- Whiplash – While common in car accident cases, whiplash can also result from falling down the stairs. This severe neck strain or sprain happens when your head jerks in a sudden forward or backward motion. This type of injury could have resulting damage to ligaments and nerves depending on the severity.
- Internal Bleeding – This dangerous condition may not be initially evident but could prove fatal if left untreated. Initial symptoms of internal bleeding could be as minor as feeling neck or back pain after a fall. If you feel these symptoms it is important to seek medical attention.
Given the potential for severe and incapacitating injuries, it is important to take precautionary measures after you experience a fall to minimize any lasting effects.
5 Common Head and Spine Injuries Caused by Falls Down Stairs
A fall backward on a downward slope with hard angles could damage a person’s head and spine. Any major impact to the head can cause serious, long-term injury. This is also true of blows to the spine, especially those that breach the spinal column and affect the spinal cord.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). A hard impact to the head can cause coma, hemorrhages or swelling in the brain, amnesia, and more. After this type of injury, also referred to as a traumatic brain injury or TBI, there may be long-term issues with mobility, memory, cognition, and behavior that require long-term rehabilitation.
- Spinal Cord Injury or Cut. A complete injury of the spinal cord means that the spinal cord has been severed, and this results in paralysis from the point of the injury downward. A complete injury of the spinal cord in the cervical (neck) region may also disrupt automatic functions such as breathing, such that a person with this type of injury could require a breathing tube. An incomplete injury to the spinal cord is a more superficial cut, which means that the injured person might retain more sensation and motor function and could improve with rehabilitation.
- Broken Spine. Recovery from breaks to any part of the spine can be arduous and painful. Injured people with clean breaks may be allowed to let the bones heal on their own, keeping the area immobilized using a cervical or back brace. When the broken bone is shattered or not healing properly, spinal fusion surgery is usually performed. This is a complex procedure that involves reinforcing the spine with titanium and/or bone grafts. Whether surgery is required or not, people with spinal breaks face months, if not years of rehabilitation.
- Compression of Discs and Slipped Discs (aka Herniated Disc. Stairway falls can cause trauma to the walls of spinal discs, causing them to painfully compress or bulge (“slip”). This can lead to severe pain, numbness, and muscle weakness, not just localized at the point of trauma but radiating to the arms and legs as well. Disc surgery and/or extensive physical therapy are the usual outcomes of this type of injury.
- Nerve Damage. Nerve damage from a sudden trauma like falling down the stairs can be much subtler to diagnose than a broken bone. Still, the effects of nerve trauma can be devastating. People with this type of injury can have pain, numbness, tingling, burning, crushing headaches, reduced motor function, unusual clumsiness, and more. Nerve damage can be difficult to treat and long rehabilitation periods are often involved.
- Whiplash. Whiplash, also referred to as a neck strain or a neck sprain, is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement. With a fall being unexpected, much like a rear end collision in a car accident, your neck can easily be jolted in a forward and backward motion resulting in this type of injury. While often thought of as a soft-tissue injury, be aware that this type of injury could impact ligaments and nerves resulting in longer lasting discomfort.
Stair Falls Are Preventable
The National Safety Council recommends that regular inspections be performed on stairways to prevent unnecessary injuries. In public places such as restaurants and retail stores, this is the responsibility of property owners. At work, it is the responsibility of your employer. Additionally, the NSC recommends preemptive safety measures such as handrails, stair treads, and adequate lighting.
If you have sustained an injury due to falling down stairs that should have been better maintained by an employer or property owner, you should call a personal injury attorney so that you can begin the often-long fight for just compensation. It is not uncommon for delayed pain after falling down the stairs, so you might consider visiting a medical professional as soon as possible to ensure you are properly taken care of. If you initiate a lawsuit and are concerned about paying the bills as it wends its way through the court system, then USClaims can help.
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