Nurse helping woman walk with walker

The inability to stand on one leg for at least 10 seconds may be a risk factor for fracture among older women, a new thesis paper out of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden shows.

Researchers examined health data from more than 3,000 women aged 75 years to 80 years over the course of three years. They studied womens’ fracture risks using two established testing methods: the One Leg Standing Test (OLST) and Timed Up and Go (TUG). OLST involves timing how long a person can stand on one leg, while TUG measures the time it takes to rise from a seated position, walk three meters, turn, and then sit down again.

Results showed that in women with low OLST scores, for those who were unable to stand on one leg for 10 seconds, the risk of hip fracture within four years was found to be more than three times higher than in women who were able to stand on one leg for 10 to 15 seconds. With a high TUG result, if it took 12 seconds or more to get up, walk and sit down again, the probability of hip fracture was almost threefold.

Both OLST and TUG also had major bearings on fracture risk in assessments that also included other known risk variables such as age, gender, previous fractures and cortisone treatment, as defined in FRAX, or Fracture Risk Assessment Tool, which gauges the risk of hip fracture within 10 years.

The author of the thesis, Berit Larsson, Ph.D., believes TUG and OLST are so clearly connected with fracture risks that including them in annual checks in primary care — to supplement the already established FRAX screening method, for example — should be considered.

“In primary care, for example, doctors could use the physical function tests, combined with FRAX, as part of their assessment of whether a person is at risk of future fractures,” she said. “Given that the season of slippery sidewalks is now underway, this is an important piece of the jigsaw puzzle of fracture prevention.”