On the fall I had enough time to think. That’s the first time that I’ve been airborne long enough to contemplate my situation. Usually falls happen so fast that the only thing present is instinct. I mean, often it takes a second or two to even register what is going on, and by that time the fall is usually over. During that flight I registered that I was airborne and thought, holy shit… I’m falling through midair, and then quickly another thought registered: HOLY SHIT, I MIGHT DIE! I was in the air long enough to look down and assess that I was at least 12 feet off the ground, and that I’d probably already dropped at least 3-6 feet. My pride refused death, and my body went into action somehow bracing for impact like a cat in such a way that I walked away with nothing more than sprains, cuts, and bruises. In fact, I only had one injury from the initial impact–my hip-and the rest were from rag dolling down the slope.
How to Fall
There are a few things that I learned about falling from this experience. One, is that falls happen, even if they are freak accidents. I remember one time, during a period of intense balance and strength training, tripping up on a stair. I just laughed. I was spending 5 days a week trail running strenuous and unstable terrain in the mountains and here I was tripping while walking up a flight of stairs.
The best approach to accident awareness and prevention is humility. Yes, spiritual principles and self-awareness come into play. We have to be right sized about who we are and what we are capable of, and one thing that is constant for anyone reading this is that we are mortal, and we are not the most graceful creatures on the planet. Accidents happen, and they happen to humans a lot. While there was a lot of randomness involved in my accident, ultimately my negligence of my surroundings and arrogance likely played a large role. Have a realistic view of yourself in the world and you’ll likely avoid many falls.
However, the fall will happen, and the best way to prepare is coordination training. I’ve honed my coordination through years of balance, athletics, and strength training. I’ve put in thousands of miles of trail running, hundreds of hours of slack lining, and I’ve taken many many falls doing both. Overtime I’ve become very familiar with my body, and just as familiar with the power of momentum. The other part that needs training is the mind. There are very productive mental reactions, but equally disastrous ones. The better trained our bodies the healthier are our reactions, but there needs to be snap responses which will be the difference in a couple of bruises and a compound fracture.
When you’re falling do not stick your arm straight out to catch your fall, and do not try to land directly on your feet if from a significant distance. Learn to stretch out the energy through rolling. You will have impact, you will have some mean scrapes and bruises, but you will avoid taking direct impact to any single part of the body, and instead spread it out until stopping is manageable. Also, be very careful trying to counter balance your momentum when falling, because that’s when the ankles and knees twist, and if you’re lucky you walk away with a sprain–unlucky a torn ACL.
How to Get Up
Falls happen, and there isn’t much we can do about them because they are always accidental–unless you’re doing some weird jackass stunts. The real challenge is getting back up afterwards.
The first thing is to assess how injured you actually are. You should go to the hospital if you’ve sustained a bad fall. If you do not week a medical professional you should be seriously in tune with yourself and have a minimum of medical first aid training (NOT WebMD) in order to diagnose serious symptoms that require specific action to arrest–such as shock–and diagnose complications which require medical assistance–such as internal bleeding. Be smart, and don’t be stubborn. If you’re jacked go get help.
Second is form a treatment plan. You need to have an idea of what injuries you’ve sustained to treat them properly. That’s on you or a medical professional. Be persistent in your treatment. After this recent fall I was bed ridden for 4 days and hardly able to walk. I alternated ice cycles throughout my entire body on 15 minute rotations all day everyday. Because I had so many places requiring ice I was able to rotate 4 ice packs 3 times an hour before returning them to the freezer and exchanging for 4 more. I had a total of 16 freezer bags filled with ice. On sprains this is especially important. Understand R.I.C.E., and make sure to take Ibuprofen–with food. Keeping the swelling down and icing can turn a month long recovery into a 2 or 3 day recovery. Master treating sprains and you will go far!
Find support. Seriously. On the 3rd day I was so beat I couldn’t even roll over on my side. My friend had come over earlier and spilled coffee on my bed, and I was trying to make my bed later that night in such severe pain and emotional distress that I just ended up sitting on my knees in this upright fetal position crying and defeated. I just wanted to make my fucking bed and sleep. It took me an hour to get that sheet on my bed, and another 40 minutes to get my icing set up afterward. I just wasn’t in condition to take care of myself adequately. I needed help. Emotional support is just as crucial as physical support, and if there were ever a time to keep friends close it is when recovering from a serious injury.
Find a way to stay positive while you recover. The mental game is just as debilitating as the physical game, and if you’re a lifelong athlete as I am, you’ll suffer from hideous depression onset from not being mobile. Ways around this: cycling, swimming, and long walks on stable ground. On day 5 I was able to do 100 paces and had to retreat back to my car. Day 6 I walked 7 miles in two sessions, morning and evening. On day 7 I rested, but quickly returned on day 8 for a 14 mile city trek. I started body surfing again using a fin only on my left foot, and by week two I was in the mountains–prematurely–climbing.
After that vertical adventure I found that I need more rest. I was able to climb successfully and efficiently, but it was painful and not enjoyable. That is the last part of the whole getting up thing. Embrace for the long haul, because it might take a lot longer than you’d like to recover from injuries. For the meantime I’m riding 30-50 miles on my bike every other day, and doing tons of core training and climbing in the gym getting my fingers strong for the upcoming desert season.
Be safe, but not too safe!