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Injury Prevention: How to Make Friends with the Ground

I am disheartened when I look at the articles out there about injury prevention. It's full of rhetoric such as "falling is dangerous", "how to avoid losing balance", "how to stay standing". It strikes me as very fear-inducing, viewing falling as a opposition to your well-being, rather than a part of your life. Perhaps the reason we are so afraid of the ground is because we never spend any time down there! Human beings in indigenous communities who still live as their ancestors did, get up and down from the ground over 200 times per day on average, and the elderly do it more frequently that the young. We can infer that this action has been a major influence in the way our body has developed and been shaped during the course of our species' existence.

In our modern society, we sit in elevated chairs and lay down on elevated beds. People could go years without getting down to the ground if they live a life where other people clean up after them.

So what happens when we stop getting up and down from the ground on a daily basis? Well, people suffer from back pain, hip mobility issues, knee, and ankle issues, digestive difficulty (yes, squatting and compressing your abdomen through movement is part of your digestive process), just to name a few of the obvious problems.

Anything that affects the hips, affects the whole spine and neck, and the way the spine and head is held affects the tension and position of the shoulder. People get problems like neuromuscular problems like Sciatica, postural misalignments like sway-back and lumbar lordosis, and that's just scratching the surface. Many elderly people break their hip when they fall because the Sacral-Iliac joint becomes fused, not from old age, but from disuse. If this joint could move, it wouldn't break during such a fall.

Okay, this article is supposed to dispel the mindset of expressing a fear of falling, and that all sounds pretty foreboding, I admit. However, These are not problems that result from falling, they are problems that result from long-term neglect of an integral aspect of human movement: getting up and down from the ground. Safe-falling is really just about getting comfortable transitioning from a standing position to a lying-on-the-floor position.

When we start practicing these skills, we first introduce the end-position of the fall. If we can really reinforce these positions with consistent practice, it will become our default, replacing whatever arm-dislocating, hip-breaking nonsense you're body has set as it's default falling reaction! From here, you can start building up. You can try transitioning to these falling positions from a crawling position, then progress to a kneeling position, then a deep lunge, and finally from standing. This isn't going to happen in a 2-hour workshop, but when you go home and start practicing a few days per week, then attend another workshop in a few months, you'll likely be ready for the next progression.

Injury prevention is about more than just safe-falling, though this is a major component, and the other components can be developed through the safe-falling practice alone. We also have to look at building resilience in our joints, as well as developing our balance and proprioception. Safe-falling gets you down to the ground in the safest and most efficient way; joint conditioning reinforces our joints to prevent injury when we do end up in funky positions; and proprioceptive training is what prevents imbalance and the fall in the first place.

First, we have to look at the resilience of our joints. Think about the full range of motion of one of your joints. In the middle of that range of motion, your joint in pretty safe, but closer to end ranges is where injuries most commonly happen. Building resilience is about improving the integrity of the end ranges of your joints, so that the "safe-zone" middle range becomes wider than before. The wider that range, the more likely you are to just walk-it-off when you roll over your ankle instead of nursing