Injuries On Stairs Occur In All Age Groups And Abilities

April 17, 2021
by Charlie Priest

Older adults, younger children and women reported more injuries, but all ages show up in emergency departments for sprains, strains, bumps and fractures.

“Stairs are a common source of injury among all ages, and the frequency and rate of stair-related injuries are increasing,” said senior author Dr. Gary Smith of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

About half of homes in the United States contain stairs, according to the Census Bureau, and the direct and indirect costs of non-fatal stair injuries total about $92 billion annually, the study team notes.

“This underscores the need for increased prevention efforts, particularly those related to stair design and construction,” Smith told Reuters Health by email.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System on injuries involving stairs that were treated in emergency departments between 1990 and 2012.

They found nearly 25 million patients treated in ERs over those 23 years, representing an average rate of about 38 stair-related injuries per 10,000 U.S. residents annually, which is about 3,000 per day or one injury every 30 seconds.

Injury rates fell by about 13 percent during the early part of the study period, from 1990 to 1996, but then rose by 24 percent from 1996 to 2012, the study found. About 62 percent of patients were women and more than 60 percent of injuries happened at home.

Adults over age 85, children under 3 years old and young adults in their 20s had the highest injury rates, but over two thirds of the emergency department visitors were a mix of ages between 11 and 60 years old.

“This study was unable to identify the reasons for the higher injury rates among women,” the study authors write. “However, these are the child-bearing and parenting years . . . that could include increased exposure to stairs related to greater time in the home while caring for children and performing household chores.”

Nearly 94 percent of patients were treated and released from the hospital, but 6 percent were admitted for treatment of fractures or concussions. The most common types of injuries were sprains, strains, scrapes, bruises and broken bones. Kids under age 10 had more head injuries while older patients had more fractures, which often required hospitalization.

Overall, about 60 percent of injuries happened without a cause, according to the patients’ accounts. Twenty-three percent of patients said they slid, slipped, tripped or misstepped. A small number said they were carrying objects and couldn’t see.

Future research should look at stair design and safety, the study authors write. To help prevent accidents, new stair construction and remodels could increase the horizontal surfaces for the foot to step on, for instance. Horizontal and vertical surfaces should also be uniform to prevent missteps, they note.

An example of a common tripping hazard, the study team, points out, is a missing nosing – the part of the tread that overhangs a stair – on the top step. Stair patterns may also throw off people at the last step, causing a bottom-of-stair illusion.

“The term ‘slips, trips and falls’ is a major misstatement of the full complexity of all possible missteps,” said Jake Pauls, a building safety consultant in Toronto, Canada, and Silver Spring, Maryland, who researches stairway safety and usability but wasn’t involved in the study.

“Underlying societal factors have led (in all countries) to a double standard and lower standard for home stairways compared to those in all other settings (such as workplaces),” Pauls told Reuters Health by email.

Handrails with a “power grip,” which allows the entire hand to grab the rail rather than just the fingers, reduce more severe injuries during a fall. Slippery surfaces and loose carpeting can cause issues, too.

“Revising building codes and updating existing stairways to comply with geometric dimensions are recommended for optimal safety,” Smith said. “People can also reduce injuries by keeping stairs clear of clutter, ensuring stairways are well-lit and not multitasking while navigating the stairs.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Emergency Medicine, online September 20, 2017.

Why Homeowners Often Avoid Inspections

Home inspections are a critical part of the home buying and selling process, providing valuable insights into a property's condition and potential issues. Some homeowners may choose to avoid inspections for various reasons. By understanding these factors, both buyers...

The Importance of Using a Line Voltage Indicator (Wiggy) in Home Inspections

When it comes to home inspections, ensuring safety is paramount. Among the many tools and devices utilized during the inspection process, the line voltage indicator, commonly known as a "Wiggy," plays a crucial role. Tennessee Inspection Services recognizes the...

Pinless vs. Pinned Moisture Meters: Choosing the Right Tool for Effective Home Inspections by Tennessee Inspection Services

During a home inspection, moisture meters play a vital role in identifying potential issues and evaluating the condition of a property. Tennessee Inspection Services understands the significance of moisture meters and utilizes them to enhance the accuracy of their...

Types of Pests That You Need to Keep Out of Your Home

Keeping pests out of your home is essential for maintaining a safe and comfortable living environment. Certain pests pose significant risks, ranging from health concerns to structural damage. Understanding the types of pests that can infiltrate your home and taking...

Pests To Be On The Lookout For When Buying Or Selling A Home

In the realm of home buying and selling, one of the major concerns is pests. These tiny invaders can cause significant damage to the property, degrade its value, and even create health risks. Comprehensive pest inspections are a crucial step in safeguarding your...

The Importance of Using Insulated Screwdrivers During Home Inspections

When it comes to conducting a thorough and safe home inspection, attention to detail is crucial. As a professional home inspector at Tennessee Inspection Services, we understand the importance of using the right tools for the job. In this blog post, we will discuss...

What You Can Do About Fire Risk in Your Home

We offer certified inspections for residential and commercial properties to both buyers and sellers. We emphasize the significance of fire safety in your home and provide measures to decrease fire risk and create a safer living environment. Ensure Electrical Safety...

The Consequences of Having Small Gaps in Your Roof

The integrity of your roof is critical for the overall protection of your home. Small gaps may seem insignificant but can lead to significant problems over time, including water leaks, pest infestations, and energy inefficiency. Understanding these potential issues...

The Crucial Role of Gas Leak Detectors in Home Inspections

Home inspections play a vital role in ensuring the safety and well-being of homeowners. Among the numerous potential hazards that need to be assessed, gas leaks pose a significant threat. Gas leak detectors are indispensable tools for Tennessee Inspection Services and...

Demystifying Outlet Testers: Understanding Their Role in Home Inspections

When it comes to ensuring the safety and functionality of your home's electrical system, outlet testers play a vital role. During home inspections, these simple yet powerful devices are used to assess the condition of electrical outlets and detect potential issues. In...

Read Also

Let’s Talk About Your Inspection

Send Us an Email

Call Us


Contact Us