Fall Prevention

Mary Tweed
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Unlike many sporting activites, Nordic Walking carries little risk of injury: there is no tackling, a low risk of runners’ knee, and you are not going get hit by a ball in some painful part of your anatomy. However, very occasionally there is a risk of tripping.

Trips are caused by one of two reasons. Firstly, there are natural hazards such as tree roots, mud or undone laces. Instructors are alert to these and will carry out a quick check of laces at the start of every session and warn walkers of slippery surfaces or obstacles as they appear.

The second (very rare) reason for tripping is the Nordic Walking poles themselves. After a recent nasty incident when one of my walkers suffered a horrible fall, resulting in bruising and being very shaken (both her and me!) I have spent some time analysing the technique and considering how to prevent anyone from tripping over poles in the future. I have subsequently devoted part of every lesson in recent weeks reinforcing the findings, which I share here.

Correct technique makes tripping over the poles technically impossible. It is a bold claim, but it is completely true. Keeping the knuckles facing the ground, like a gorilla, and holding the poles at 45 degrees ensures that the tips of the poles engage with the ground just behind the back foot (see first picture - apologies for the photo bombing dog!). Thus when the foot swings forward it has a clear path to do so and there is no danger of accidentally hooking your leg around the wrong side of the pole.

Problems arise when walkers use a bent arm. Hinging at the elbow means that the pole is planted in a more vertical position (as seen in the second picture), which inevitably leads to the tip being placed in front of the body. It is then incredibly easy to swing the leg forward on the outside of the pole, thus catching the pole between your legs and leading to a stumble, or a proper tumble.

Using a long straight arm swung from the shoulder socket not only brings many benefits, by firing up the muscles of the upper body, but it is also vital to keep you safe and avoid unnecessary falls.

In Summary

  • Keep knuckles facing down
  • Hold poles at 45 degrees
  • Place tip in the ground near the back foot
  • Swing from the shoulder socket using a long straight arm

Stay safe and enjoy Nordic Walking in Suffolk.

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