3 tips to prevent common holiday injuries

(BPT) – What does your holiday wishlist include this year? Spending time with friends and family? The latest tech or that best-selling book you’ve been meaning to read? Maybe it includes plans for a trip in 2017. Whatever is on your wishlist, chances are a holiday-related injury isn’t one of them.

No one wants to be hurt during the holidays, yet injuries sustained as part of the season’s festivities are actually very common. In fact, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) there were nearly 69,000 visits to doctor’s offices and/or emergency departments in 2015 directly due to holiday decorating and decorations.

“During the holiday season so many of us get wrapped up in what we have to do, that we don’t take the time to do it safely,” says orthopaedic spine surgeon Alan S. Hilibrand, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). “It’s up to all of us to never forget safety as we’re checking off our to-do list, because you can’t enjoy the holidays when you’re hurt.”

To help you prepare for and enjoy your holidays in a safe and enjoyable way this year, the AAOS offers these safety tips.

Master the ladder

Yes, we’ve all been up a ladder hundreds of times, but 566,000 Americans were injured due to ladder falls in 2015. Many of these injuries took place during the holidays when outside conditions are more conducive to accidents.

Before using a ladder for any task, you should inspect it thoroughly for loose screws, hinges or rungs, and never climb a ladder that is damaged. Even the shortest job can still cause an accident. Once the ladder has been deemed to be in good working order, make sure it is set on level even ground – even if this means removing debris or snow to do so. Then, be sure you have a spotter ready below before beginning your climb. Once your task is finished, climb down the ladder and move it to the next position – don’t overreach. Relocating the ladder is just as easy and safer.

Pack smart

If travel is an essential component of your holiday plans, how you pack and handle your luggage can mean the difference between arriving healthy or injured at your final destination. More than 84,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctor’s offices and clinics for injuries related to luggage in 2015. Here’s how to keep yourself off that list in 2016.

Start by packing lightly and resist the urge to drag that single, massive suitcase around. Several, lighter bags will be easier on your body. And when lifting luggage – no matter the weight – stand alongside your luggage and bend at the knees instead of the waist. Grab the handle and straighten up with the luggage close to your body – this allows you to lift with your leg muscles instead of your back.

Once you’ve lifted your luggage, it’s important you handle it properly. If you’re carrying a duffel bag, resist the urge to keep it on your dominant shoulder for the duration of the trip – rotate shoulders instead. Likewise, if you are using a backpack, make sure both shoulder straps are used and tightened accordingly so the weight is evenly distributed.

Finally, when handling a roller bag, don’t drag it up the stairs. Pick it up and carry it instead. This simple adjustment will protect your body and the bag.

Walking without danger in a winter wonderland

Walking is something people take for granted, but during the holiday season when everyone’s in a hurry, the opportunity for accident and injury increases. That’s why it’s important to walk defensively, just as you drive defensively, paying attention to the people, vehicles and objects around you, especially when it’s dark. Avoid jaywalking or other potentially dangerous situations. And if you need to switch your attention for a moment – perhaps to make a phone call or talk to a child – stop and step out of the main walkway to do so.

If you like to listen to music while you walk, make sure to keep the volume to a reasonable level so as not to block out the outside world. Being able to hear a car horn, for example, may just save your life.

The holidays can be an enjoyable time of year when we all look forward to visiting with family and friends, taking some time off to relax and crossing those wishes off our list. Follow the tips listed above and you’ll enjoy a safe and spirited holiday season.

Share the AAOS holiday safety tips infographic with your friends and family.