Newswise — The annual appearance of multicolored lights on houses is a sure sign the holidays have arrived. However, for some, putting up those lights can pose a hidden danger for your feet.

Many people will fall from their ladders while putting up or taking down holiday lights and often land directly on their feet fracturing their heel bone. As the largest bone in the foot, the calcaneus, or heel bone, serves as the base for the joint connecting the leg bones to the rest of the foot and the anchor point for the Achilles tendon. When the heel bone is fractured, everyday movements such as walking are very painful and walking on uneven surfaces will be difficult.

“A heel bone fracture is a terrible, life changing event, and I see too many of these cases around the holidays after people fall off their ladders” said Pedro Cosculluela, M.D., a Houston Methodist orthopedic surgeon specializing in the treatment of foot and ankle problems. “Heel bone fractures are commonly associated with skin and soft tissue injuries, which need immediate medical attention because they can quickly lead to infection.”

If the fracture does not open the skin, signs the heel bone is fractured include a bluish discoloration of the heel or tenting of the skin. Surgery with plates and screws to put the bone back together and hold it in place is often necessary for these patients.

“The biggest complication these patients face isn’t the surgery, but wound healing, as traditional, long incisions can injure the skin’s blood supply which lengthens the healing process,” Cosculluela said. “When possible, I perform this surgery with minimally-invasive techniques to help reduce the risk of wound healing issues.”

While most falls from ladders are accidents, Cosculluela encourages people to take extra precautions when hanging holiday lights. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends inspecting the ladder for damage prior to use, extending the ladder at least 3 feet above the roof and securing it to the house while in use to prevent falls.

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