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Walking like a penguin may not look cool, but it may prevent a life-changing fall

Watch this before you step foot again on icy steps and sidewalks
Watch this before you step foot again on icy steps and sidewalks 02:17

MINNEAPOLIS – Hospitals are seeing an increase in slips and falls as people navigate through the snow and ice. Injuries range from minor to severe. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around a million Americans are injured annually falling on ice or snow. Of those, 17,000 of the injuries are fatal.

"We're seeing a lot of head injuries from slip and falls, some neck injuries where people have broken their neck, injured their spine. And then most commonly what we're seeing is a lot of ankle injuries," said Hennepin Healthcare Emergency Physician Dr. Ashley Strobel.

RELATED: WCCO's Frank Vascellaro has shoulder surgery after driveway fall

One fall can change everything in seconds. In mid-December, a fall on the ice left Golden Valley Pastor David Kent with a broken neck and partial paralysis

"This is a life-changing event for me and my family. We all have to make some major, major changes," Kent said.

While the range of injuries varies, Dr. Strobel says when it comes to a fall, there are some ways to try to soften the blow if you have time. One being tucking in your head to prevent it from hitting the ice.  


"If you're [right-handed], you should try to fall on your left hand," she said. "I would try to aim for that snowbank. Certainly if you can lower yourself to the ground it will help."

Dr. Strobel says prevention is key. She encourages people walking on ice and snow to take smaller, slower steps, often referred to as "walking like a penguin."

"Intentional steps where you're putting your weight down and fully placing your weight. It's going to take longer, but it's certainly safer," she said.

Dr. Strobel also reminds us that the melted snow from our shoes can pose a new fall hazard indoors, too.

Hennepin Healthcare offers additional tips to staying safe in the winter.

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