Falling over safely with momentum

This golden rule applies when you’re falling with momentum, such as downstairs, or a hill, off a ladder or a roof, or off a something moving like a bicycle, motorcycle, horse, skateboard, or being dumped in the surf.

If you fall when you’re moving you are far more likely to do damage to your spinal cord. Spinal cord injury can cause paralysis or death.

What gets injured?

If you have your head jammed forward with great force you can definitely get injured.

You can damage the front of your vertebrae, the block like part called the vertebral body, the discs that sit in between the vertebral bodies, or you can tear the muscles, tendons and ligaments at the back of you’re spine or even break the bone at the back of you’re neck.

You never want to sustain any of these injuries because they will cause you problems, even serious ones, however, none of them are as bad as a spinal cord injury.

Spinal Cord Injury

Our brain and spinal cord are our most intricate, delicate bits.

When damage is done, it’s done. Mostly it doesn’t get better.

The higher up the neck the damage is done the worse the consequences.

  • The most common cause or spinal cord injury is car accidents, so always wear a seat belt.
  • The 2nd most common cause is assault, so fight back hard, keep your chin on your chest, guard your head with your hands and forearms and cover your head if you get knocked off your feet. It’s the hard blows to the face – punches or kicks – that cause most of the spinal cord injuries.
  • The 3rd is falling over. So knowing how to fall well is really important.


What does the damage?

The spinal cord runs down the spinal canal in the back ½ of your spinal column. Spinal cord injury occurs when excess pressure is applied to the spinal cord. This occurs when your head is knocked backwards hard and fast enough. It is especially likely when bone has been broken.


If a vertebrae is fractured in more than 1 place it is unstable and the fractured section can press onto the spinal cord. This may happen at the time of the injury or sometime later, when the person turns their head fast or they knock it again or even if they sneeze.

Impacted or Wrenched

However you don’t even need to break bone to damage your spinal cord.

Simply having your head jammed backwards hard and fast can compress the cord enough to damage it. This happens because as the head goes backwards the bones of the back of the neck are jammed forward violently at the apex of the curve and are pushed into the soft vulnerable spinal cord, damaging it.

The bones of the neck, designed to protect the cord, become the instrument of it’s damage.

Garden Hose Experiment

If you take a garden hose and bend it enough, eventually it kinks and the side on the inside of the curve presses against the other side of the hose. This is what happens in your spinal column when your head is snapped back. The result can be injury or damage to your spinal cord.

How long does it last?

For some, the shock only causes swelling around the spinal cord, without damaging it. This causes temporary weakness or paralysis that clears in 6 to 36 hrs.

But when the spinal cord is damaged, it is by and large, permanent.

How can I avoid this happening to me?

Fortunately that’s simple, but you do have to remember to do it before you hit. You need to rehearse it in your mind a few hundred times so it’s a reflex reaction.

Get your chin on your chest and don’t look where you’re going.  

Chin on chest, chin on chest, chin on chest……

Whenever we go anywhere, we always look before we go there. This is so obvious, it’s almost invisible. Try standing up and walking backwards across a familiar room without anything in it you could fall over. It’s a strange and disconcerting feeling.

So it’s completely natural to look where you’re headed.

The trouble is, you often go legs up as you’re flying through the air. If you keep looking where you’re headed, your head gets tilted backwards as you go and you can land at a very bad angle.


If you impact with you’re head while you’re in this position, (head tilted backwards), the whole weight of your body either compresses straight through your neck or keeps going past where your head stopped and levers around your neck. This is the point that the damage is done. Irreversible life changing damage.

So don’t look where you are going. Just get your chin on your chest.

1st things 1st

If you have had a decent blow to your head or neck or a significant fall, especially if you hear a ‘crack’, call an ambulance or very carefully get yourself to a hospital ER for a CT scan immediately.

You really can’t be too careful with this one.

One wrong move after a neck injury may be your last, or the last time you use your arms or legs. You are much better off to be safe than to be sorry.

Remember, when you fall over always keep your head down and get your chin on your chest.