Hip protectors do not cut falls risk, new study finds

Share this content:

It appears that energy-absorbing hip protectors do not help prevent the nearly 340,000 hip fractures that occur each year, including those that occur in nursing homes, a study from Harvard Medical School suggests.

After examining more than 1,000 nursing home residents in 37 nursing homes for about two years, researchers found that the incidence rate of hip fractures on protected hips among study participants did not differ from the fracture incidence rate on unprotected hips. They suspended the study because the evidence indicated a lack of effectiveness.
"The highest incidence rates of hip fractures have been reported in nursing home residents, where 50% of residents fall each year," researchers said in a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Investigators also noted that while hip protectors were developed to reduce the impact of falls and risk of hip fractures, there is mounting evidence against their routine use in nursing homes. Study participants, the bulk of whom were women with an average age of 85 years, used the hip protector 74% of the time.
Experts commenting in the JAMA issue suggested that more research should be conducted before making recommendations for or against hip protector use by frail nursing home residents. Also, the hip protector industry may develop better protective padding, which could affect the product's use in the future, the Harvard researchers noted.