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Fractured Hips Due to Slips and Falls

  • Dec 12 2019

What is most often the cause of a hip fracture?

No one likes to fall. Interestingly enough, the first thought that most people have after slipping and falling anywhere other than the privacy of their own home is “did anyone see me?” Why we are more concerned with the possibility of looking foolish than whether we are hurt is a whole other discussion for another day, but this psychological oddity is not found in those who are in their 60s or older. For them, that first thought is far more likely to be “please don’t let it be a broken hip!”

Our risk of falling sharply increases as we age. Every year, around 30 million older Americans fall, leading to be the number one cause of death due to injury for those 65 and older. While breaking any bone can be painful and lead to serious complications, hip fractures are the ones that older adults fear the most. Not only can the pain be extreme, but there is a very real possibility that life may never return to what it was before the fall that resulted in the fractured hip.

What we refer to as a hip fracture or broken hip is actually a break in the upper portion of the femur, or thighbone. The vast majority, more than 95%, of these fractures occur as the result of a fall, typically one in which the individual lands on their side. Older people are the most vulnerable to these types of falls, and women tend to suffer from this injury more often than men, most likely due to women having a higher rate of osteoporosis, which leads to compromised bone density.  

Factors That Increase the Risk of Slips and Falls

While it is true that falling is considered a hazard for our oldest individuals, research has shown that the likelihood of falling starts rapidly increasing as we hit the age of 50. It is believed that this coincides with more people developing diseases like arthritis and diabetes that affect the overall quality of life and conditioning. Neither arthritis or diabetes can be cured, currently, so individuals with these conditions need to practice extra caution. 

There are other factors that increase the risk of slips and falls and some of them can be changed to lower the risk. The most common that have been identified include:

  • Weakness in the lower extremities
  • Inadequate amounts of Vitamin D
  • Balance issues while standing and walking, especially when a cane, walker or other aid has been recommended but is not being used
  • Certain medications that are known to affect balance, especially sedatives, antidepressants, as well as a number of over-the-counter medicines that come with warnings related to balance and risk of falling
  • Problems with vision, which can lead to poor judgment with curbs and obstacles
  • Improper or poorly-fitting shoes
  • Foot or leg injuries that throw off gait and balance
  • Tripping hazards in the home, like uneven floors, throw rugs, broken steps, children’s toys or just general clutter
  • Alcohol and drugs

It’s important to take any sort of fall seriously, but this is particularly true the older we get. If you suspect the possibility of a fractured hip, the symptoms will generally include pain, often severe, in the hip and groin area, and it will likely be difficult, if not impossible, to walk. There will also be redness or bruising, as well as swelling. 

The sooner that you consult with a healthcare professional after a serious fall, the better the chances for a successful outcome. This is even more true for those over 65 for whom hip fractures can be life-changing. 

If you have questions about a hip fracture or any other orthopedic concerns due to slips and falls, the physicians and staff of South Island Orthopedics are very experienced in a wide range of orthopedic conditions and are committed to providing personalized care in a state-of-the-art facility. To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here

Posted in: Hip