Hip Fractures: Hip Protectors No Help?
Study: Hip Protectors May Not Prevent Hip Fractures in Elders
July 24, 2007 -- When elders fall, they may not be less likely to sustain a
hip fracture if they're wearing a hip protector, a new study shows.
"We were unable to detect a protective effect" against hip fractures
in nursing home residents aged 65 and older who wore hip protectors, the
However, a journal editorial notes that there are several different types of
hip protectors and that more studies are needed to see whether hip protectors
do -- or don't -- prevent hip fractures in older adults.
The study and editorial appear in the July 25 edition of The Journal of
the American Medical Association.
Hip Protector Study
The new study on hip protectors comes from researchers including Douglas
Kiel, MD, MPH.
Kiel is the director of medical research for the Institute for Aging
Research at Hebrew SeniorLife and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Kiel and colleagues studied 1,042 people aged 65 and older at 37 U.S.
nursing homes. Participants were 85 years old, on average. Most were white
women; few were taking osteoporosis drugs. None were on bed rest when the study
Participants wore special undergarments with a built-in hip protector on
their right or left hip. The hip protector included padding and a hard
The researchers visited the nursing homes to make sure the residents were
wearing their hip protectors and to track participants' hip fractures.
Participants were followed for nearly eight months, on average. During that
time, hip fractures affected roughly 3% of the protected and unprotected hips,
according to the study.
Hip Protectors: Second Opinion
The hip protector used in Kiel's study isn't currently on the market. Since
the study started, other hip protectors have become available and are being
tested, Kiel's team notes.
Kiel and colleagues note several possibilities that might have affected the
Participants may have been more careful to avoid falling during the study.
They may also have tried to land on their protected hip if they started to
fall, the researchers point out.
In addition, wearing a hip protector only on one hip may have affected
participants' gait and risk of falling, according to the study.
The data are "useful" but "not sufficient" for evaluating
all hip protectors, note editorialist Pekka Kannus, MD, PhD, and
In the journal, the editorialists note financial ties to various health care
companies. The researchers who worked on the study report no financial
conflicts of interest.