Putting Up Christmas

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is typically the time people choose to “clean up Christmas.” According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the rate of Christmas decorating injuries has been creeping up. Since 2010, the estimated number of holiday decoration-related injuries has increased at a rate of 1,000 per year. The most common injuries come from people falling off ladders. In 2015, there were more than 630,000 ladder-related injuries that required medical treatment in the United States.


While you’re taking down the tree and Christmas lights, be sure to keep these helpful tips in mind to keep you and your family injury free.

Inspect the Ladder Before Using it:

  • “Make sure it’s in good condition before climbing,” says our own Dr. Michael Hussey, who specializes in the shoulder and elbow.
  • Never use a ladder that is damaged, broken or bent.
  • Check the ladder for any loose screws, hinges or rungs.
  • Clean off any mud, grease, oil, snow or slippery liquids on the ladder.
  • Do not make a temporary repair of broken or missing parts because these repairs could fail while you are high off the ground.

Proper Set-Up of the Ladder:

  • Be sure the ladder is set up on stable, even ground. The ground outside can become bumpy after cycles of freezing and thawing over the winter months or may be soft or muddy throughout the year.
  • If working outside, make sure the ladder is away from electrical wires, tree limbs or any other obstructions.
  • Use the 4-to-1 rule: Make sure the ladder is 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet that the ladder rises. For example, if the ladder touches the wall 16 feet above the ground, the feet/base of the ladder should be 4 feet from the wall. If you are going to climb onto a roof, the ladder should extend 3 feet higher than the roof. The upper and lower sections of an extension ladder should overlap to provide stability.
  • Whether inside or outside the home, do not place stepladders or utility ladders on boxes, countertops or unstable surfaces to gain additional height.
  • Before using a stepladder, make sure it is fully open and that the spreaders or braces between the two sections are fully extended and locked.
  • The highest standing level on a stepladder should be two steps down from the top.

Tips for Safe Ladder Use:

  • “Always have someone hold your ladder steady to prevent a bad fall,” says Dr. Hussey. “If you’ve had any recent injuries and there’s any doubt about your physical condition, you definitely need to have a friend or family member assist.”
  • Leaning too far to one side, and reaching too far overhead, can make you lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder.
  • On stepladders, never stand on the pail shelf, spreaders or back section.
  • Do not overload the ladder. It is meant to be used by one person at a time.

If You Fall from a Ladder:

  • Calmly assess the situation and determine if you are hurt.
  • Get up slowly.
  • If you feel that an injury has occurred that prevents you from standing or walking, do not panic. Call for assistance. If the injury is serious, call 911.

“Many orthopaedic injuries are seen in our clinic every year from bad falls related to holiday decorating mishaps,” says Dr. Hussey. “This is supposed to be a fun time of year with friends and family, but unfortunately, we see way too many injuries occur that could have been easily prevented if some of these basic safety tips were followed. We understand that life is unpredictable, and if injuries do occur, our physicians at Arkansas Specialty Orthopaedics are here to assist you in ‘Getting Back to Life’!”


Dr. Michael Hussey is an ASO board certified surgeon with a specialty in the shoulder and elbow. In his practice, he devotes his passion and skills to the treatment of all complex shoulder and elbow disorders, ranging from sports injuries to arthritis.