LiveSmart: Walk Like a Penguin – Don’t Fall on the Winter Ice!

[Written by William Douglas, DO, St. Peter’s Musculoskeletal Medicine.]

Ever wonder why penguins waddle? It’s because their legs are too short to keep their center of gravity between both legs. By waddling, they put their center of gravity over one leg at a time which, lucky for them, helps prevent falls in icy conditions.

As humans, we slip and fall on icy roadways, walkways, and parking lots. Many falls involve traumatic head injuries, spinal cord damage, and serious bone fractures, not to mention less serious (but still painful) injuries to shoulders, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, etc.

How Can I Protect Myself?
Don’t rush when exiting your vehicle. Swing both feet out together, place them firmly on the ground, hold onto your car until your footing is secure, and slowly stand.

Then, walk as the penguins do!

  • Bend slightly forward; walk flat-footed, keeping your center of gravity over your feet.
  • Point your toes out slightly to the sides.
  • Take short steps; shuffle your feet.
  • Keep arms at your sides and hands out of your pockets.
  • Walk slowly; concentrate on keeping your balance.

Other tips:

  • Wear flat shoes/boots with a large tread that provide traction. Consider wearing grippers or ice cleats.
  • Don’t text or talk on the phone while you walk.
  • Stay on designated walkways.
  • Avoid walking in areas that appear hazardous.
  • Apply rock salt or calcium chloride to walkways at your home or business.

What if I Fall?
Protect your head at all costs! And DO NOT try to catch yourself with your hands. You won’t be able to protect your head and will likely cause additional breaks/injuries in your wrists. The Farmer’s Almanac offers this advice:

  • If you’re falling forward, keep your head up. Throw your arms straight out in front of you and slap your palms flat to the ground to help absorb the impact.
  • If you are falling backwards, tuck your chin against your chest and cradle your arms around your head.
  • Try to fold your body into itself as you fall which will decrease the height and redistribute the energy from your fall.

I’m Hurt. Now What?
If your injury is severe or life- or limb-threatening, call 9-1-1 or get to an emergency room right away. Minor injuries can be treated more quickly and appropriately at an urgent care or doctor’s office.

If you need non-surgical follow-up care for injuries involving bones, joints, muscles, nerves, or soft tissues, doctors at St. Peter’s Musculoskeletal Medicine can help. They create comprehensive treatment plans using advanced technologies to help you improve, or even resolve, your pain and limited function caused by these injuries.

To learn more and meet our providers, visit our website: To schedule an appointment, call 518-713-5400.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email