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How to Fall Down Without Getting Hurt

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Tricks from an Oscar-Winning Stuntman

When we fall, our natural instinct is to reach out for the ground with our hands. Unfortunately, that only increases our odds of injury—our hands, wrists and arms are full of small bones that are easily broken. Instead, when you realize you are falling…

 

 

 

 

 

1. Buckle your knees. This can in essence lower the height that your upper body falls by as much as a foot or two, significantly reducing the impact when you hit the ground. In a forward fall, it might result in bruised knees, but that’s better than a broken bone in the upper body.

Helpful: In a backward fall, tuck your head into your chest as you buckle your knees—try to turn yourself into a ball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Throw one arm across your chest whether you’re falling forward or backward. Do this with enough force that it turns your body to one side. It doesn’t matter which arm you use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Rotate the rest of your body in the direction that you threw your arm, increasing your spin. If you can rotate enough, you can come down mainly on your backside, a well-padded part of the body unlikely to experience a ­serious injury.

Trouble is, while stuntmen know exactly when and where they’re going to fall, real-world falls usually take people by surprise. It can be difficult to overcome instinct and put this falling strategy into action in the split second before hitting the ground.

Practice can help. If you have access to a thick gym mat and you don’t have health issues that make it risky, try out this falling technique until it feels natural.

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Source: Hal Needham, who appeared as a stuntman in more than 4,000 television episodes and more than 300 feature films. He also directed movies including The Cannonball Run. In 2012, he became only the second stunt performer to receive an honorary Oscar for his work. He is author of Stuntman! My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life (Little, Brown). Date: September 1, 2013 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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