Hip Protectors Reduce the Risk of Hip Fracture
Hip fractures are a major cause of disability, functional impairment and death in individuals age 65 years and older. The increasing number of elderly has led to an increased incidence of hip fractures. Kannus et al (NEJM 343:1506, 2000) investigated whether the use of a hip protector would reduce the number of hip fractures in individuals at risk for hip fracture.
Most cases of hip fracture are the result of a sideways fall that has direct impact on the greater trochanter of the proximal femur. The hip protector, which consists of two padded shields worn inside pockets of a specially designed stretchy undergarment, is designed to absorb and displace the impact energy of a fall away from the greater trochanter.
In this study, 1801 elderly adults who were 70 years or older who had at least one risk factor for hip fracture participated. Risk factors included previous falls or fractures, impaired balance or mobility, use of walking aid, or disease or medication known to predispose for falls or fractures. 62 hip fractures occurred in the control group (n=1148) compared to 13 in the hip-protector group (n=653), resulting in a 60% reduction in risk for hip-protector group. 9 of the 13 hip fractures in the hip-protector group occurred when subjects were not wearing the hip protector when they fell, reducing the risk of hip fracture by 80% if the protector is worn at the time of fall. Based on these data, the number needed to treat for one year to prevent one hip fracture was 41 persons (95% CI, 25-115).
These data are consistent with the results reported by Lauritzen et al (Lancet 341, 1993) and emphasize the benefit of wearing a hip protector to reduce the risk of hip fracture.