The clocks changed this weekend and fall is now in full swing, with cold, blustery weather on the East Coast today. When I was on my way to do my errands before the game came on, I saw something that made me cringe… a guy in his 60’s up on a roof cleaning leaves out of his rain gutters.
I can’t tell you how bad of an idea this is.
Falls causing serious injury and death are distressingly common in the United States. It is the second most common trauma fatality in people aged 18 to 49 years of age. The trauma and spinal cord center that I work at was full last week of people who had fallen off their roofs removing leaves and debris.
Approximately half of the people who fall from a height of 20 feet will be killed by their fall. Orthopedic and neurological Injuries for survivors depend on what body part they land on. Head injuries from the skull striking the ground are usually devastating. If the patient lands on their feet they usually have bilateral calcaneal (heel fractures) and femur and hip fractures. These injuries usually require a period of non-weight bearing for six to eight weeks. If patient land on their torso’s they usually suffer spinal fractures with the risk of paraplegia. It goes without saying that devastating internal organ injury (e.g., liver laceration, splenic rupture) can occur regardless of how the patient lands.
I understand that gutters have to cleaned and repairs to roofs made. It is just not worth the risk to have someone who climbs up on roofs infrequently do this with the likely the wrong type of ladder and without a spotter. There are professional roof cleaning outfits in every town that can be hired for a few hundred dollars to attend to whatever roof or gutter problem is at hand. There are old-time trauma surgeons who will tell you that patients (they are usually men) are never the same after being injured from a fall from a roof – even the patients who make a “full recovery.”
So, please, please, please do not go up on the roof for any reason. There are two groups of people allowed on the roof – professionals who do it every day and who have the right type of training and equipment and a guy with a white beard in a red suit and black boots.
Copyright 2006 Insidesurgery.com