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J Biomech. 2007;40(12):2612-8. Epub 2007 Mar 28.

Reducing hip fracture risk during sideways falls: evidence in young adults of the protective effects of impact to the hands and stepping.

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Injury Prevention and Mobility Laboratory, School of Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada.


Hip fracture is rare in young adults, despite evidence that the energy available in a fall is sufficient to fracture the young proximal femur. This might be explained by protective responses that allow young individuals to avoid hip impact during sideways falls. To test this hypothesis, we conducted experiments with 44 individuals (31 women and 13 men) aged 19-26 years, who were instructed to try to maintain balance after a sudden unpredictable sideways translation was applied to the platform they stood upon. While the surface adjacent to the platform was formed of gymnasium mats, we provided no information on surface compliance, or the direction and speed of the perturbation. Ninety percent of participants fell and impacted the pelvis, and 98% of those cases involved direct impact to the hip region. Impact occurred to the hand in 98% of falls, and preceded impact to the pelvis by 50 ms on average (SD=40, range=-12-175 ms). The impact velocity of the pelvis decreased 3.6% for every 10 ms increase in the interval between hand and pelvis impact, and was reduced by 22% on average by stepping prior to impact. Our results suggest that the lack of hip fractures in young adults cannot be explained by avoidance of hip impact during sideways falls. Rather, it probably relates to use of the hands and stepping, and by simply possessing sufficient bone strength to withstand the direct blow to the greater trochanter that tends to accompany sideways falls.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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