The Emergency Room at the St. George Regional Hospital has seen plenty over the years, but fortunately will never be full of gunshot wound patients or stabbing victims.

We'll leave that stuff to Chicago or Los Angeles.

But you might be surprised what the top reasons our ER is busting at the seams.

Ashley Butler, whose official title is Trauma Injury Prevention and Community Outreach Coordinator, was on the Andy Griffin Show Wednesday and laid it out for us.

"No. 1 is ground-level falls," she said. "No. 2 is elevated falls, off ladders, scaffolding or even downstairs. And No. 3 is car accidents.

"It hurts to fall as an adult. Falling downstairs ... I fell downstairs holding one of my newborns one time and I couldn't brace myself. It really hurt. And it's not just for the elderly. People fall all the time and can do a lot of damage."

Here are some fascinating facts about GLFs (ground-level falls), courtesy of the CDC:

  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury
  • Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries
  • Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture
  • Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.

Research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. These are called risk factors. Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. They include:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Home hazards or dangers such as
    • broken or uneven steps, and
    • throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over.

If you want to avoid a trip to the emergency room, getting rid of that throw rug or buying better shoes may be the simplest way to help.

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