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October 4, 2016 - TCO

Normal fall activities that can actually be dangerous

Normal activities during the fall season such as raking leaves, cleaning windows and moving lawn furniture generally are tame, but they can still pose a risk if done haphazardly or incorrectly.

Every year we see patients who have suffered injuries tripping and falling in the yard, slipping off ladders, pulling muscles raking and much more. Most of these injuries are preventable if simple precautionary steps are taken. Although we Minnesotans are tough, we shouldn’t let our pride get in the way of being safe this season.

Below are friendly reminders and helpful tips for staying safe this fall while cleaning, doing yard work and preparing for winter.

Wear the proper gear for your activities.

Sure we can handle the cold, but in the fall there’s more than just the temperatures dropping. Branches, pine cones, apples and many more potential hazards often fall out of trees and get covered by leaves. Wearing sturdy shoes with quality soles can prevent dangerous trips and slips. Make sure to wear gloves to prevent blisters while working, and keep yourself covered up — not just from the elements, but also from poison ivy, stinging insects and snakes.

Raking can be a wonderful activity, but don’t overdo it.

Raking leaves when the air is crisp and sun is shining can be an enjoyable experience and a good way to get exercise. According to AARP, a 135-pound person can burn about 240 calories by raking leaves for an hour. But because raking is considered a moderate physical activity, it also can lead to accidents and injuries if not done carefully.

Warm up, especially if you have been inactive for more than a few hours. After raking for more than 15 minutes, or when raking wet leaves, we tend to change our posture and use our back more than we should (similar to improper shoveling), which can lead to pulled muscles and other overuse injuries. Be sure to switch sides and rake left- and right-handed on occasion, and do your best to maintain a straight posture at all times. Finally, remember to take it easy. Never rake more than your body can take.

Step up your ladder knowledge.

Before you climb up to clean out gutters, replace your storm windows or trim tree branches, make sure you are taking every necessary precaution to safely use your ladder. First thing’s first: Do you know the proper way to set up a ladder? The most-important thing to remember is that your ladder needs to be stationary, firm and on flat, solid ground. Don’t set it on top of wet leaves or muddy grass, and absolutely never set it on uneven ground. A little wobble at the base of the ladder will result in severe movement at the top.

The 1:4 rule is very helpful. For every 4 feet of ladder height, you should set up the ladder base 1 foot away from the wall. So, if your ladder is set against the house 12 feet up, the base should be 3 feet from the wall. Additionally, if you are climbing onto a roof or other tall surface, your ladder should be long enough to extend at least 3 feet above the point of support, where the ladder meets the edge. Standing on the top three rungs is extremely dangerous and never should be attempted. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration  (OSHA) has developed a long list of ladder-use tips and guidelines to help keep you safe this year.

Make sure your lawn and garden equipment is properly maintained and serviced.

New equipment is likely to be in great working order, but tools and equipment such as leaf blowers, which may have been sitting idly for a year, should be serviced to prevent dangerous malfunctions.

Unfortunately, sometimes even the best preparation can’t prevent accidents and injuries from occurring. If you suspect you or a loved one may have an injury such as a broken bone, pulled muscle, sprained ankle or other acute injury, please visit your nearest TCO Orthopedic Urgent Care location to be treated immediately by a specialist. We have orthopedic specialists available to help 8am-8pm, seven days a week.

Please stay safe this season, and enjoy fall!