In a single year, as many as 350,000 Americans may find themselves suffering from a broken hip. It is estimated that, 90% of the time, these fractures are due to a fall. Residents in nursing homes seem particularly vulnerable. Up to 50% of residents fall each year(!).
In the past decade, companies have developed pads that can be worn on the hip. It was thought that these pads would offer enough cushioning to the hip to prevent a fracture. But, according to a new study performed at the Rehabilitation Studies Unit, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, the latest health news is that hip protectors don’t necessarily work.
The research team conducted a randomized, controlled trial with 234 participants. The residents were all older than 75 years and were recruited from nine units of seven nursing care facilities in the Northern Sydney region. The first group received hard shell hip protectors without cost (no-cost group). The second group received an educational session, a demonstration of the use of hip protectors, and free choice of type of hip protectors without cost (combined group). The third group was the control group, who received a brochure about hip protectors.
The research team found that no participants in the control group purchased hip protectors at any stage. At three months, 33% of participants in the no-cost group and 27% in the combined group wore a hip protector at the time of visit. This declined to 25% and 24% respectively at six months. No significant difference was seen in any of the three outcomes between the two intervention groups. The number of falls or hospitalizations did not differ between groups, with five hip fractures reported during the intervention period.
Hip protectors come in two types: ones that divert the energy of a fall away from the hip, and ones that absorb the impact of a fall. There are many types of hip protectors on the market. They can cost as little as $30.00 and as much as $75.00. Many of these protectors have not been tested.
If you want to try a hip protector, get your doctor’s advice and make sure you get one that has been clinically tested.
The best prevention against fractures is to stop falls from happening in the first place. Make sure you get some exercise every day. Strengthening your muscles will help you to keep your balance.
At home, move trip hazards out of the way and make sure rooms are well-lit. Beware of medications that make you dizzy — being dizzy can put you at greater risk for a fall. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have this problem. There may be an alternative medicine you can take.