Quicker Than a Blink of an Eye – and Your Life Changes

You have less time than it takes the human eye to blink to catch yourself before a fall – a mere 300 milliseconds.

No wonder we fall on ice, down the steps, off ladders and trip over cords.

At CHI Health Mercy’s Level III Trauma Center, staff is committed to outreach efforts to curb the No. 1 reason for trauma admissions: falls.

They’re educating the public about risk factors for falls (vision, hearing, balance, environment) and teaching how to mitigate those risks. Information is being distributed through the Mercy Emergency Department and through EMS, who see not only the worst falls but also those not traumatic enough to be admitted.

“We see too many falls every year that could have been prevented,” said Emergency Department Medical Director Christopher Elliott, MD. “We are developing strategies such as Tai Chi and other evidence-based community programs that help to improve balance.”

Sharing data with EMS is critical to success, he said. “They interact with the community when they are injured, but also can help identify folks who are more prone to injury. This means they are vital to any prevention efforts we embark on.”

Why the big deal over falls? Too often these “simple little falls” result in serious, if not life-altering, injuries or even death. The recovery process from some of these can be very arduous and challenging, especially for older adults. It may be more difficult for them to bounce back and the recovery can be longer. Many never return to their pre-injury independent status and the more serious injuries lead to death.

Taking Spills: The Dismal Numbers

According to CHI Health Mercy's Level III Trauma Center registry:

  • 89 percent of trauma patients have suffered blunt trauma
  • Up to 60% of these are from falls
  • In Council Bluffs, the fire department reports that 45 percent of its transports are for falls. Both Pottawattamie and Mills counties have emergency department visits resulting from falls that are much higher than the state rate.