Child demonstrating backwards fall motion

Soft landings: Helping keep children safe when falling

Falls are the leading cause of hospitalizations from unintentional injury (33 percent) among BC children and youth, 0-24 years.(1)  And at least 29,000 children younger than 15 years of age receive treatment for playground injuries in hospital emergency departments each year in Canada with children five to nine years of age having the highest risk of injury. (2)

Many of these falls happen while children are PLAYing, whether at home, school or the PLAYground.

So should we stop children from PLAYing or be there 24/7 to catch them if they fall?

No! We should teach them HOW to land safely. Because they will stumble and they will fall, but they can do it safely.

In gymnastics there is a saying that “we have no right to put a child up onto any height until we have taught them how to come down and land safely”. This is the first step in creating indestructible children.

PLAY Gymnastics BC clubs throughout the province are safely teaching children this most used fundamental movement pattern.

Landing on your feet
Children are taught the proper way to land on their feet forwards, backwards and sideways. They use their toes, balls of their feet and finally their heels to dissipate the force of the landing over time. As they progress, they practice jumping from higher apparatus to increase their confidence.

A common term during landings is “motorcycle landing” – children land with their ankles, knees and hips bent to absorb the landing with their arms in front at chest height. When done properly, they look like they are riding a motorcycle. This type of landing helps to prevent hyperextension of the knee, improves balance and reduces ankle rolling – all common causes of injury.

Landing forward on your hands
Often when children are learning to walk and run and when they are PLAYing, stumbles occur that cause them to fall forward. By teaching them the proper way to fall, we can limit the injury to just a small scrape or even no injury at all.

In gymnastics classes, children are taught to bend their arms to absorb the fall, fingers facing forward. The force of the landing is absorbed through the fingers, palms, wrists and finally, the elbows.

Often this is first practiced while standing along a wall to get the feel for the position. The next progression is from a tall kneeling position where the stomach is the LAST part of the body to reach the floor. These progressions continue until the child is comfortable falling from a standing position.

Landing backwards on your hands
This may be one of the most important skills to ensure that your child is PLAYing safely. Games of Tag or during horseplay can result in children falling backwards. Many children (and adults) place their hands in a position that significantly increases the risk of wrist and elbow injury.

Fingers must always be pointing towards the toes. Another way to remember this is that the “thumbs are next to the bum”. This position allows the elbow to bend and the force to be absorbed through the fingers to the elbow.

Landings while twisting
Children on skateboards and while playing games, have a greater chance of falling while in a twisting position. These types of landings are easily and safely learned in gymnastics classes.

When landing in a back shoulder roll position, children are taught to turn their head to look at their knees and keep their head away from contact with the ground. For those falling forward, the contact follows the arm, shoulder(s) and hips they roll to a safe landing.

And this all happens under the guidance and care of certified gymnastics coaches. PLAY Gymnastics coaches are trained to safely teach landings along with the other six fundamental movement skills in an environment that has many mats and squishy surfaces.

Safe landings for life
If you think gymnastics is just for children, consider this:

  • One in three older British Columbians experiences a fall each year.
  • Falls account for the largest proportion of all injury related deaths and hospitalizations among older persons in BC.
  • Injuries from falls account for 85% of all injuries to older persons.
  • And (as of 2005) cost the province $151 million annually in health costs with falls among older women accounting for 73%of the costs, or $131 million. (3)

By teaching your children how to fall properly now, not only can they PLAY safer this summer, but this lifelong skill may save them from hospital visits later.

Possibility Plays Here

Find a PLAY Gymnastics BC club

References

Ministry of Health, Government of BC: Falls
Canadian Paediatric Society, Preventing playground injuries, P Fuselli; NL Yanchar
Gymnastics BC, The goal is to create “indestructible’ children, Keith Russell

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