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Fall Prevention and Osteoporosis (cont.)

Why Is a Fall Likely to Cause a Broken Bone?

The force and angle of a fall

The force of a fall (how hard a person lands) is a significant factor in whether a person will have a broken bone or not. For example, falling a longer distance increases the risk of fracture, so a taller person has a greater risk of a broken bone from falling than a shorter person does. The angle of a fall is also important. Falling sideways or straight down is more likely to cause a broken bone than falling backward. Any bone will break if the force from the fall is strong enough and if the fall occurs at a certain angle, but reducing the force of the fall or falling at a less dangerous angle may prevent fracture.

Protecting oneself during a fall

Using one's reflexes and changing one's body position during a fall can protect a person from breaking a bone, especially the hip. Putting one's hands out to catch oneself is a reflex during a fall. If a person lands on his or her hands or grabs onto something while falling, he or she is less likely to break a hip, but the fall could break the wrist or arm. Of note, even though a broken arm or wrist is painful, it is less likely to cause long-term disability or death compared to a broken hip.

Landing on a softer surface could reduce the risk of a fracture. That is why hip (trochanteric) pads are recommended by some physicians. For people in nursing homes or people who have already had a broken hip, hip protectors are worn to reduce the impact of trauma and may protect the bone when a fall occurs from a standing position. However, studies have not conclusively demonstrated that these hip protectors can protect people at risk of a broken hip, and their use remains controversial.


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