Icy weather may not be as big of culprit behind seniors' falls as once thought

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Winter-related maladies like falls and influenza are commonly cited as giving skilled nursing occupancy a boost in the early months of the year. But that might be giving ice and wintery conditions too much credit, according to new research.

Researchers with the North American Partners in Anesthesiology at the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, CT, studied more than 540 older hip fracture patients treated at the hospital between 2013 and 2016.

The results showed more than half (55%) of fractures happened during the warmer months, with May, September and October accounting for roughly 30%. Three-quarters of the fractures occurred inside, researchers noted. For outdoor fractures, 60% occurred between May and October.

“It is counterintuitive that the risk for hip fracture would be higher in warm months, as ice and snow would appear to be significant fall risks,” lead researcher Jason Guercio, M.D., told HealthDay News.

Instead of slippery or snowy sidewalks the study found that tripping over an obstacle was the main cause of falls, with rugs as the most commonly cited culprit.

“Given the results of this study, it appears that efforts to decrease fall risk among the elderly living in cold climates should not be preferentially aimed at preventing outdoor fractures in winter,” Guercio said.

Results of the study were presented Monday at the American Society of Anesthesiologists' annual conference in Boston.