Swedish researchers say they have produced the first “statistically significant” proof that impact-absorbing flooring can provide measurable benefit in preventing injuries from falls inside nursing homes.

In their study published in the journal Injury Prevention, the researchers concluded that such flooring can reduce injury rates by 59% over conventional flooring, a much higher rate than expected. The scientists performed their study in a Swedish nursing home from October 2011 through March 2014 by observing and recording falls in apartments, a communal dining-room and parts of the corridor. The impact absorbing flooring was a 12 mm thick closed cell flexible polyurethane/polyurea composite tile (500×500 mm) with an exterior surface of polyurethane/polyurea.

Over the 2½-year study period, 254 falls occurred on regular flooring and 77 on impact absorbing flooring. The injury/fall rate was 30.3% for falls on regular flooring and 16.9% for falls on impact absorbing flooring, according to the study abstract. All of the subjects in the study were female residents.

Falls seemed to be more common in the absorbent-flooring areas, though less injurious. The absorbent tiles reduce the force of an impact by 65% to 85%, the manufacturer says. Testers acknowledged that the disproportionate number of falls occurring on the soft tiles might have occurred because caregivers put more fall-prone residents into these areas.

Seventy percent of nursing home residents experience falls an average of three-to-four times a year, lead author Johanna Gustavsson of Karlstad University told Reuters news service.

“The consequences are often very serious … resulting in hip fractures or head injuries.” Falls account for about $34 billion in medical costs a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.