Be Prepared! / Health/Fitness / Safety

Look Out for that Banana Peel!

With 600 or so tasks to accomplish in the next three years, better not waste any time. So here’s the very, very first…


One of the requirements for  the Safety First badge asks scouts to do an “informal poll” of people close to them to find out what the most common types of injuries are for people their own age. Sure, I could do a small sampling among friends and readers, but as it happens, pretty sound data exists in a large sample, and I was curious to see it.

The Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has this topic covered. Using their web-based WISQARS database (, I ran some numbers using the most up-to-date data (2007). I’ve converted their dry, auto-generated table of numbers into a slightly more palatable chart:

Falling was the number one unintentional injury for folks around my age–by quite a large margin as you can see from that chart. Ladies, we are apparently clumsier than gentlemen, and I’m anecdotally wondering if we could draw a straight line from this data to high heels.

Anyway, the data surprised me a bit. I’ve always figured that the days of “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” wouldn’t arrive until around the time of my first Social Security check (yes, I still have faith I’ll see them).  Public health campaigns tend to focus on preventing falls for senior citizens, too. So I was even more surprised to learn that it’s the number one cause of unintentional non-fatal injury across all age groups and sexes.

In fact, the total number of falls for everyone, all ages and sexes, in 2007 was 4,346,855. That’s roughly equivalent to the combined populations of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

It surprised me (and it may’ve surprised, you, too), but I don’t think it’s surprising those smart Girl Scout folks. One of the next requirements in this badge asks scouts to “Help prevent one of the most common causes of injuries and death in US: falls. Point out where falls can happen easily, such as in the bathrooms or on stairs, and show how they can be prevented.”

I’ll embark on that work down the road, but I’d be curious to know if anyone out there also finds it surprising that falling down is the #1 cause of unintentional injury.  I think I’d assumed that, for my age group at least, it would be something “cutting yourself with a knife in the kitchen.”

That was my excuse for not cooking, and now I can’t use it. Rats.


9 thoughts on “Look Out for that Banana Peel!

  1. Yeah I guess I can believe it. You can slip on some ice, or a stumble over a shoe or (in my house) a quilt on the floor. I was more amazed about the struck by / against. Is this about physical fighting? Since there is a separate motor vehicle (occupant) category.

    • What a great question. I’m not 100% sure how CDC is defining this in terms of “unintentional” injury; I know they have are actively involved in preventing intimate partner violence. Let me look into it, and I’ll post here if I can get some firm clarification. Thanks!

  2. I am thinking that I probably account for maybe half the falls tracked. Can’t blame it on ice, can’t blame it on a dog, probably shouldn’t even blame it on shoes. Am only sad that there is never a video camera around to catch me, because it would probably be very entertaining for the rest of you. Thank goodness I know my way around a knife, and make sure I never walk around with one.

  3. Yes, I am surprised! I would have thought it would have something more to do with back/neck/shoulder injury due to improper lifting, shoveling, yard work, and sitting at a computer all day.

  4. I can believe that falling is the number one unintentional injuries for people of our age. After all haven’t you been walking the dog across a patch of ice the size of a pea and slipped and fallen right on your back? You know one moment you are looking at the white landscape of winter the next thing you know you are flat on your back looking at a bright blue sky. If you are luck (like me) the dog stops. However I think I embarrsed him because he looked at me and just shook his head – after all he made it across the pea size piece of ice why couldn’t I. If a Girl Scout had been there to point out that spot I would not have fallen. (FYI nothing broken except my pride)

    • Ice… D’OH! Here I am, living in Texas where the only ice we typically see is in our freezer. Clearly, age and distance have affected my memory. Good call, woman! (And p.s. — your dog should compassionately remember that he has four paws on the ground and a lower center of gravity!)

    • Flip flops! Of COURSE! In fact, I was wearing cheap flip flops and trying to get out of the rain when I went flying off a curb and broke my wrist about six years ago. Smart, smart, smart!

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