Hip protectors: reducing the risk of a hip fracture

What are Hip Protectors?

Hip protectors are a specialized type of underwear containing pads on the outside of each hip. They are designed to help reduce the risk of a fractured hip when a person falls. They are most commonly recommended for: Senior citizens who are at risk of fracturing a hip, thin and frail senior citizens and senior citizens who have already had a fall or near fall. Some studies have shown that hip protectors can decrease the risk of a hip fracture by 64%. Hip protectors made out of breathable fabric are available and also hip protectors that have no seams. 
Professor Moira O’Brien, President and founder of the Irish Osteoporosis Society Charity states “If worn, hip protectors can significantly reduce a person’s risk of fracturing a hip.However it is the loss of independence which a monetary cost cannot be put on.  If hip protectors are recommended to you or if by going through the information below, you feel you are at risk of a hip fracture, act now and help prevent yourself from losing your independence”. 
What is a Hip fracture?
A hip fracture is a fracture (break) in the hip bone, at the top of the thigh bone. Hip fractures are one of the most serious fractures and it is essential to prevent them. 
Please read through the list below to see if you or a family member, are at risk of fracturing a hip. Please do not let your pride be the cause of you losing your independence.
If you answer yes to one or more of the questions below, you or a family member may be at risk of falling, fracturing your hip and losing your independence. 
  • Have you had a fall or near fall?
  • Do you hold on to furniture when walking?
  • Have you fractured a bone from a trip and fall or less?
  • Do you have unexplained fractures?
  • Have you been diagnosed with Osteoporosis or Osteopenia and stopped taking your Osteoporosis medication. 70% of Osteoporosis patients worldwide stop taking their treatment within one year, which significantly increases the risk of multiple fractures. 
  • Are you a Senior citizen who has not had a DXA scan for Osteoporosis?
  • Have you lost height, your shoulders have become rounded, you have constant back ache or the pain comes and goes, developed a hump on your back or is your head protruding forward from your body?
  • Are you a thin and frail build?
  • Do you find stairs becoming more difficult or that you are becoming apprehensive using them?
  • Do you find it difficult to pick up objects from the floor?
  • Do you find that you are not able to walk as far as you used to, without having to take a rest? 
  • Do you have difficulty sitting down or getting up from a chair or couch?
  • Do you get apprehensive at times regarding losing your independence?
  • Those who are blind or suffer from dementia.
  • Are you taking three or more medicines, such as sleeping tablets? 
  • Do you find that keeping track of your medications is difficult at times?
  • Do you do less than 30 minutes of weight bearing exercise a day?
  • Have you experienced dizziness, light headedness, or blurred vision?
  • Are you apprehensive getting in or out of the bath or shower?
  • Has it been over one year since your vision or prescription glasses have been checked? 
  • Have hip protectors been recommended to you, but you have not worn them?
Speak to your doctor, family member or a friend about what issues you are concerned about or alternatively give the Charity helpline a call: 01 637 5050.
Why preventing hip fractures is essential
  • 20% of people who fracture a hip aged 60+ will die within 6-12 months, due to secondary complications, such as a blood clot, pneumonia or infection. 
  • 50% of people who fracture a hip aged 60+ will not be able to wash, dress or walk across a room unaided. 
  • Only 30% of people who fracture a hip aged 60+ will regain their independence. 
  • 90% of hip fractures are due to Osteoporosis
  • There is a hip fracture every 30 seconds in the EU
  • One hip fracture in total costs €55,000 - 1 years supply of hip protectors costs €100 
  • A DXA scan for Osteoporosis costs approximately €100
  • From age 70 + a person is 25 times more likely to sustain a hip fracture.
  • Between the ages of 65 to 74, 62% of accidents are related to people falling.
  • 82% of accidents to people over the age of 75, are fall related.
  • Senior citizens account for up to 70% of all deaths from falls in the ROI and NI.
  • Women are much higher risk than men to have a hip fracture
  • More men die than women from hip fractures, even though double the amount of women are affected by Osteoporosis, than men. 
To ensure the most benefit from hip protectors, the following are helpful hints:
  • Buy two pairs so that when one is being washed, you have a spare pair.
  • Be measured for them and have the person show you exactly how they should be positioned over the hip area. It is important that hip protectors are worn correctly. 
  • Wear them at all times, falls can happen at any time.
  • If you get up at night to go the bathroom at night, you should consider wearing them at night. 
How can hip protectors prevent hip fractures?
Padded hip protectors are designed to absorb the energy of a fall by diverting the impact away from the greater trochanter in the hip. The greater trochanter is the area of the hip most affected by Osteoporosis. 
Do hip protectors prevent broken hips? 
  • Logically if hip protectors are worn, they realistically have to reduce hip fractures. 
  • Those living in nursing homes are 3-11 times more likely to fracture a hip. Hip protectors that are fitted properly and are worn at all times, have shown in studies to reduce hip fractures in this setting.
Frequently asked questions regarding hip protectors: 
Q 1: Will people know I have hip protectors on?
Answer: NO, a study was done with people wearing hip protectors and people not wearing them. The result was that the audience could not pick out those who were wearing the hip protectors. 
Q 2: Are hip protectors difficult to put on?
Answer: In general no. 
Q 3: I sometimes have to go to the bathroom urgently, would they make it more difficult for me?
Answer: No. There are several styles and in your situation the open hip protectors would most likely suit you best, as they do not have to be pulled down in order to go to the bathroom. 
How else can you avoid breaking a hip?
  • Organise a DXA scan if you have not had one. The test takes approximately 10 minutes, it is painless and not claustrophobic. 
  • Have a physiotherapist assess you for a daily exercise programme, to help to improve/maintain your mobility, balance and muscle strength. 
  • Ensure to take the daily amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D3, as they have been shown in studies to reduce the risk of fractures and falls in senior citizens. 
  • If you have been told you are at risk of fracturing, please ensure to take your Osteoporosis treatment your doctor has recommended. If you develop side affects (which are very rare), please contact your doctor so that your treatment can be changed. 
  • You did not feel your bones getting weaker and you will not feel your bones getting stronger. Have repeat DXA scans so that you can see the improvement in your bones but also to identify if for some reason your results are decline, which should be investigated. 
  • Make your home safe: Read through our fall prevention leaflet to reduce your risk of a fall, as many falls can be prevented.