05/25/2012 10:56 am ET

Doc Watson Hospitalized After Falling In His Home: Why Are Falls So Dangerous For The Elderly?

Grammy-winning singer and guitarist Arthel "Doc" Watson, 89, is in the hospital in critical condition after he fell earlier this week at his home in Deep Gap, North Carolina, according to news reports.

The News and Observer noted that he went to Watauga Medical Center after his fall, but was then transferred to a different hospital -- Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem -- and may have pneumonia and kidney failure.

Watson did not suffer any broken bones during the fall, the Associated Press reported.

"He is a stout man who has lived 89 years with very little sickness and always been quite healthy,” Watson's playing partner David Holt told the News and Observer. “So we’re hoping.”

Reuters noted that the spokesperson at the hospital where Watson was admitted did not give any specific information about why he was at the hospital.

If Watson does in fact have pneumonia -- which is an infection that leads to inflammation of the lungs -- it can be especially dangers for people his age. A number of complications from pneumonia are more common among people over age 65, including fluid accumulating in the membranes surrounding the lungs, as well as bacteria getting into the bloodstream, leading to shock, organ failure or death, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Falls among the elderly are incredibly common and dangerous, occurring among one in three adults over age 65 per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in 2008, they were responsible for 19,700 deaths.

Fall injury risk increases with age, with the risk for being hurt jumping nearly four-fold between ages 65 and 74, according to the CDC.

A 2000 study in the journal American Family Physician explains why they can be a sign of a bigger problem:

Falls can be markers of poor health and declining function, and they are often associated with significant morbidity.

In addition, falls among elderly people often lead to broken bones -- in fact, for people ages 70 and older, falls lead to more than 90 percent of hip fractures, according to the study.

Men were 46 percent more likely to die from a fall than women in 2007, according to the CDC.

ABC News reported that Nancy Reagan, 90, also recently experienced a fall that led to several broken ribs.

"Falls in someone this age can be very serious. They are one of the leading causes of death," Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor at ABC News, told the news organization. "A broken rib makes it hard to take a deep breath, and that can set you up for pneumonia, which in the elderly, in particular, can be deadly."