It's been a little while - I hope since last time you were reading my words you and your loved ones had an awesome Christmas!

Yesterday in the wintery weather that has suddenly engulfed the north of England, I had a few moments of utter terror...

...as my feet vanished from underneath me on the icy pavements.

(Tip for readers: most barefoot trainers aren't good for navigating icy terrain.)

Four big slips in ten minutes but no fall. I was relatively proud of my ability to self-correct quickly enough to stay on my feet.

This sort of spontaneous self-correction is governed by our reflexes - it happens more quickly than consciously chosen strategies and occurs more automatically - but interestingly our reflexes are limited by our moveability.

Think of a a tall being with a base that cannot change size and a body that doesn't make. It has no legs but moves by hovering. Visualise a hovering Pringles can. We'll call him Mr Pringles. You may have eaten many of his friends over the Christmas holidays. If the bottom of Mr Pringles is knocked quickly enough with sufficient force, he will "slip" and fall.

Now, take the same size moving Pringles can but instead of it being one long can, imagine it being made of two smaller cans joined by a ball-and-socket joint in the middle. This is Mr Pringles 2.0. If the bottom can is knocked quickly and with force, Mr Pringles need not fall over as with our first example if he can move his top half to counterbalance himself. With this two part jointed body, he will have to move his top half quickly but he can stay in balance.

Mr Pringles 3.0 with a three part body would find it easier still to self-correct. With two parts to counteract his slipped base, both parts needed move as far or as fast relative to 2.0.

Less moveability leaves Mr Pringles and others like him on thin ice, athletically speaking.

It happens in sport regularly. Your traction on the surface goes. You get kicked. Your balance becomes compromised. 

More mobile individuals, with more active control over a greater number of their joints, will find it easier to rebalance, will risk hurting themselves from the impact of a fall less and will risk injuring themselves trying to self-correct less than more rigid individuals.

This holds true for another method of saving yourself from falling to - increasing the size of your base of support. Unlike Mr Pringles, we can spread our feet to help us keep balance. The faster and further we can do this unrestricted by rigidity, the better. In the extreme example, a person who can easily do splits cannot fall in the conventional sense and will not pull their groin as their legs travel apart quickly.

Don't leave yourself on thin ice. Get mobile, stay stable.

 

Arton "Slipping ain't falling" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Injury Clinic and Performance Centre