Alt-Health: Falling — The Great Equalizer

slipAfter watching Madonna fall backward off of the stage at the recent British Music Awards, I got to thinking. The old slip and fall is a great equalizer. It dumps us all indecorously upon our asses, celebrities and common folk alike. With the Motif Music Award Nominees issue upon us, I was curious to see just how many musicians have fallen at award ceremonies and performances over the years. There are entire websites devoted to this subject, a sign of how many of us enjoy watching the mighty fall.

Destiny’s Child seems to be cursed by the Slip and Fall gods — Michelle Williams toppled on the stage in 2004 and Beyonce has taken some dives that could have turned a lesser person into a paraplegic. To her credit, she just kept on singing. In 2008, Joe Jonas slipped on glass, cut his hand and bled all over the stage. He made it look hot. Taylor Swift fell during a concert in 2010 and Justin Bieber has been slipping on stairs since 2009, once breaking his ankle. At the 2014 VMA awards, Iggy Azalea, Australian rapper, was twerking her impressive behind at the camera, a move that everyone appreciated, until she fell off the stage backward. The list of fallen idols includes Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Drake, Katy Perry (who somehow managed to slip five times on the ruins of a giant cake), Demi Lovato and Rihanna. One Direction lost their direction on at least five occasions, but except for Pink, who landed in the audience during a 2010 performance and swore like a sailor, and Stephen Tyler, who nearly broke his neck in 2009, for the most part the pros can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. When Lady Gaga fell over a piano bench in 2011 she didn’t miss a beat. You’d almost think she planned it.

But what about the rest of us? When the cameras aren’t rolling and the world isn’t watching, how easy is it for us to get up and walk away unscathed? I went online to look for some statistics and was startled at what I found. The pratfall may be a hallmark of slapstick comedy, but for most people, it’s not so funny. Fully 50% of all accidental deaths at home are due to falls and about 25% of people experience an injury after falling including lacerations, hip fractures or head traumas.

This has been a particularly icy winter. I recently had a slip and fall myself down a couple of concrete stairs, landing flat on my ass. I had to go for x-rays and while waiting around the ER for a couple of hours, I took advantage of the amiable nurses and asked some questions. Each year, over 8 million emergency room visits are due to slips, trips and falls. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. We have all laughed at the expense of the elderly actress in the Emergency Alert commercials who croaks, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” But it is no laughing matter. Every year, 33% of people over the age of 65 will experience a fall. Fifty percent of all elderly adults who are hospitalized for a fall will be unable to return to home.

There is a depressing number celebrities who have actually died while performing. Comedian Dick Shawn, who is best known for his screen stage role as Hitler in Mel Brook’s movie, The Producers, collapsed during his comedy act and lay on the stage for five minutes before the audience realized it wasn’t part of his act. Doctors later said he died while fans were laughingly suggesting that someone steal his wallet. And not one, but TWO actors, Renato Di Paolo and Tiago Klimeck, accidentally strangled themselves during hanging scenes while portraying Judas in a Passion of Christ play. I am not sure if this is a commentary on Christianity or simply a matter of two actors who got a little too much into their roles.

What can we do to keep ourselves from becoming a statistic? Well, first of all, I do not recommend simultaneously singing and moonwalking anywhere near stairs or the edge of a stage. However, it may surprise you to know that most people who fall do so on level ground, not from elevated areas. So my next advice might be to watch where the hell you are going and stop staring at your mobile devices. And don’t forget to tie your high tops, no matter how cool it may look to leave the laces undone.

Awareness is the best form of prevention. But as I watch Madonna do that back flip over and over again, I have to admit — a lack of awareness sure is funnier on YouTube.