How to survive falling long distances

Few people would ever volunteer to jump from a second-story window or fall off the side of a mountain, but there are times when such an action may save your life.

Many falls from long distances are survivable but may require fighting natural instincts or protecting vital organs while sacrificing other parts of your body.

There’s no easy way to say it- most falls from a long distance are going to cause damage and that damage will look pretty severe at first. The goal is to keep your most essential systems (heart, lungs, brain) functioning until professional medical help arrives. Here are some tips for improving your odds of surviving a fall:

Loosen your limbs. Sometimes the difference between surviving and not surviving a fall is the landing. There’s never enough time during the fall to think your way out of it, but you may recognize how you’re going to land.

If you know you’re going to land feet first, fight the instinct to stiffen your legs and hips for impact. Doing this will most likely cause your ankles to twist violently, your knees to collapse and your hips to be driven out of their pelvic sockets.

Instead, try to loosen your joints and allow the energy of the impact to travel through your entire body. The same holds true for a hands-first fall. Your natural instinct may be to hold out your arms stiffly and brace for impact. What will actually happen is a debilitating wrist fracture, distended elbows, and dislocated shoulders.

Instead, try to direct the energy of the impact away from your body by holding one arm loosely across your midsection. This will cause your body to roll onto its side and the energy will be dissipated. Your arm may be driven into your ribcage, but fewer limbs will be broken.

Roll and tumble. When it comes to long-distance falls, resistance is often futile. You’re going to hit the ground or road or water very hard. If you allow your body to tumble and roll after impact, however, the energy of the fall will be dissipated. Your landing surface may not be very forgiving, but at least you’re alive.

The results might include bruising, cuts, possible dislocations and road rash, but less damage to internal organs. A direct impact with no energy dissipation can cause a destructive internal shock to vital organs, so be willing to sacrifice your outer body to protect your inner workings.

Use your surroundings. If you have any control over your circumstances, look for something which might cushion your fall or at least slow your descent. A fall from a roof might be broken by an awning, or a fall off a cliff might be slowed by tree branches. Reach out for possible hand holds or ledges or the side of a building.

If falling is inevitable, keep trying to maneuver around dangerous objects in your landing zone. Landing in a pile of bricks might be preferable to landing on the handle of the shovel next to them. Try to land hip first for maximum protection of the body.

Prepare for impact. Landing in water may seem like a godsend, but it can cause just as much damage as the solid earth. If you find yourself falling from a bridge into the river below, stand straight up and cover your groin area. Point your toes downward at the moment of impact and allow your body to reach a natural stop before attempting to swim. Follow the bubbles to the surface if you should become disoriented from the shock of the landing.

In other cases, if you’re not prepared to roll or tumble after impact, at least crouch and cover your head. Your body should protect your vital organs and the damage to your skin and bones can be treated through plastic surgery and physical rehabilitation.

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