Falling studies have been conducted in controlled environments but not in field studies for ethical reasons; this limits the validity and applicability of previous studies. We performed field studies on existing YouTube © videos of skateboarders falling. The aims were to measure the wrist angle at impact on videos of real unprotected falls and to study the dynamics of the upper limbs when falling.
Youtube © videos of skateboarders falling were studied assessing the direction of the fall, the positions of both upper limbs and especially the wrists on impact. This study would not be ethical by other means.
In study one (the more quantitative study) there were 48 men and 50 falls. The mean elbow flexion was 300 (range 00 to 800) and the mean maximal wrist extension was 800 (range 500 to 1100). The secondary wrist extended less or the same in > 90%. The second wrist only one (of 31) extended > 900 which should minimise the risk of toppling. Falls onto only one wrist gave significantly greater maximal wrist extension. In the second more qualitative study we observed the “upper limb falling reflex” where the response to falling is for the upper limb(s) to align with the direction of falling of the body with the elbow mostly but not fully extended. Initially the wrists extend c. 400–500 with the fingers held mildly flexed. Immediately before impact the fingers hyper-extend with some compensatory wrist flexion to c. 300. The fingertips impact the ground first followed by the hand.
These studies confirm wrist extension at impact around 800 but the wrist(s) may hyper-extend risking toppling. Falls on both wrists minimise the risk of toppling. The “upper limb falling reflex” is defined; it is a rapid dynamic response leading to the fingers impacting the ground first on falling.
Declaration of Interest
(a) fully declare any financial or other potential conflict of interest