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J Orthop Res. 1995 Nov;13(6):956-62.

Force attenuation in trochanteric soft tissues during impact from a fall.

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Division of Orthopedic Surgery, San Francisco General Hospital, California 94110, USA.


The risk for hip fracture from a fall is known to decrease with increased body mass index (weight/height2), a relative measure of obesity. To explore whether this reduced risk is due to the protective effect of increased soft-tissue cushioning in obese individuals, we used an impact pendulum and surrogate human pelvis to conduct simulated fall impact experiments on trochanteric soft tissues harvested from the cadavers of nine elderly individuals. For each impact, the total applied energy was 140 J. Peak forces ranged from 4,050 to 6,420 N, and tissue energy absorption ranged from 8.4 to 81.6 J. Increased tissue thickness correlated strongly with both decreased peak force (r2 = 0.91) and increased tissue energy absorption (r2 = 0.76). However, peak forces in all cases were within 1 SD of previously reported average fracture forces for elderly cadaveric femora. This suggests that force attenuation in trochanteric soft tissues alone is insufficient to prevent hip fracture in falls in which an elderly person lands directly on the hip. In such falls, additional energy-absorbing mechanisms, such as breaking the fall with an outstretched hand and eccentric contraction of the quadriceps during descent, are likely to be involved if fracture does not occur.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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