Spring has sprung, but ice still a problem

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

“Anywhere where there is weather like we have in South Dakota, any sidewalks – on campus or off – are potentially dangerous,” said Dr. Rick Holm, the medical editor of the On Call television program.

Due to the current melting and freezing cycle, Brenda Andersen, the associate director at Student Health, said the clinic is beginning to treat more ice-related injuries again after a small lull. At least one to two patients come in a week after a fall, she said.

Recently, Andersen had a student who could not move their elbow after a fall. Luckily, the elbow ended up not being broken.

Other students have met similar fates. Nicole Hansen, a sophomore animal science and pre-veterinarian major, has a friend who fell on the ice while walking to class last year. Hansen’s friend, who is no longer a student at SDSU, fractured her wrist, forcing her to wear a brace and resulting in several doctor visits.

Despite these injuries on campus, Holm, who regularly jogs on campus, does not feel that the physical plant should be blamed. He said that even if the sidewalks are cleaned off well, they would not be completely safe.

“We can ask the physical plant to do as well as they can,” he said. “My sense is they do an excellent job? It is extremely well compared to other places in the community.”

Lynne Finn, the assistant director of the physical plant, said the plant tries to prevent ice from forming on the sidewalk by pushing the snow a couple of feet away from the sidewalks, which prevents the melting snow banks from draining onto the sidewalks.

Still, there are a few spots that students would like to be cleaned off better. Hansen said there is a patch of ice outside the fire escape door of Pierson Hall, and she said that sometimes the sidewalk from Pierson to the Rotunda can be icy.

Dixie Kittelson, a sophomore nursing major, said the sidewalk that is a steep hill outside of the Dairy Microbiology building is sometimes icy in the early mornings. She did point out, though, that the physical plant usually fixes the problem right away.

Holm said the danger of falling on the ice is especially great for the elderly and those people who do not have good balance or their weight or bones are challenged.

Common injuries from falling on ice are sprained ankles, wrist fractures, upper extremities fractures, knee sprains, hip fractures and head injuries, said Dr. Mary Helen Harris, a Trauma 5 physician at Sanford Hospital.

Depending on the fall, these injuries could become very costly, Andersen said. A contusion, or bruise, is reasonable with the student only needing to use ice and Ibuprofen, but back pain from a fall can be expensive. X-rays, chiropractors, specialists and physical therapist visits may all be needed, she said.

Harris agreed. She said if the fall lands a person in the emergency room, that in itself is expensive, and of course, there will be follow-up visits, possibly surgery and operating room costs or the cost of a cast if a bone needs to be set.

Working in an emergency room, Harris sees several cases of ice related injuries a day, and she said that acute care clinics also see several fall victims each day.

Ice-related falls typically occur when snow covers the ice or when snow melts during the day and creates ice at night. Some people do not watch where they are walking and people are busy with their cell phones, said Andersen.

To prevent these falls, Harris recommends wearing shoes with good traction, and if walking for a long distance or for exercise, she recommends walking during the day.