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Hidden Dangers of Black Ice


For those of us lucky ones living in the Temperate zone, winters usually will mean snow and ice. And when it comes to ice, black ice is the most feared. But what exactly is black ice? What makes it more dangerous? And what, if anything, can you do to protect yourself from its dangers?

Black ice is not actually black;  it’s a clear, thin layer of smooth ice that forms on roads, driveways, and other pedestrian areas. The name black ice refers to the color of the blacktop that’s seen through the transparent ice layer. Slips and falls frequently occur because it’s difficult to detect this slick and glassy ice that’s practically invisible to pedestrians and drivers!

Injuries often occur when pedestrians slip and fall on black ice. It’s a common reaction when you’re falling to outstretch your hands to try and balance or brace yourself from the fall. Falling like this can cause injuries to your wrists and hands ranging from sprains to fractures and even broken bones if you fall hard enough!  

So what can you do to prevent injuries from a slip or fall on black ice? Here are some tips:

  • Be aware of the weather to ensure you’re wearing the proper footwear. Ice occurs most frequently when the temperature falls below freezing, especially right after a rain or light drizzle, or recent temperature fluctuation. Wear shoes or boots with rubber soles and grips and avoid heels and leather on days when there’s a chance of winter weather.
  • Walk with small strides and slow steps to help give yourself time to catch your balance if you start to slip or fall with less impact to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Keep your center of gravity over your legs to avoid any sudden weight shift that might throw you off balance.
  • Keep your feet flat on the black ice when walking – not on your heels or toes.
  • Keeps your arms free to balance yourself.
  • If you are falling, try to roll with the fall to avoid the impact landing on your hands and wrists.

If you do slip and fall, and sustain arm, wrist, or hand injury or pain - call for assistance and get inside to get warm as soon as possible.  Place an ice pack over the injured extremity immediately after your body has warmed up. It is important to be evaluated sooner rather than later because urgent medical or even surgical intervention may be necessary.  Visit an Urgent Care Center near you to be evaluated by a medical professional and follow up with an Orthopedic specialist. Crystal Run Healthcare has 5 Urgent Care centers located in Orange, Sullivan and Rockland Counties, and additionally offers same-day orthopedic appointments for injuries in several locations. , For life-or limb-threatening emergencies, always dial 911 of go to the nearest Emergency Room.


Tsai-Lung Tsai, DO, is an Orthopedic Surgeon at Crystal Run Healthcare in Middletown, Monroe, and Newburgh. He earned his Medical Degree from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, ME and completed his Residency in General Surgery at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Paterson, NJ. Dr. Tsai completed his Fellowship-training in Hand Surgery at Christine M. Kleinert Hand and Microsurgery Institute, University of Louisville School of Medicine in Louisville, KY and is Board Certified in General Surgery.  Dr. Tsai specializes in Orthopedic and Hand Surgery with clinical interests in distal radius fracture, nerve surgery, carpal tunnel surgery, trigger finger, dupuytren's disease, lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) regenerative medicine, and microsurgery.