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What factors contribute to bone fracture in a fall?

Winter is coming to Missouri, and the icy sidewalks and wet, slippery floors that it often brings with it can pose an increased fall risk. You probably already know that a fall can cause a bone to fracture. However, you may not realize that the fall itself is only one factor that contributes to a broken bone. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are three factors that contribute to breaking a bone in a fall. Apart from the fall itself, the other two factors are the fragility of bone and the force and direction of the impact. 

Fragility of bone

Osteoporosis is a gradual loss of bone mass or density, resulting in bones that are more fragile and therefore at increased risk for fracture. Because osteoporosis is a progressive disease, it usually affects elderly adults most of all. Regardless of your age, however, you can help prevent fracture by talking with your doctor about medications, adequate vitamin and mineral consumption and an appropriate exercise program to halt the progression of bone fragility.

Force and direction

Force refers to how hard you land after you fall. The more forceful the fall, the more likely you are to suffer a fracture. External factors can modify the force of a fall. For example, falling on a softer surface will decrease the force, while falling from a greater distance will increase it. The direction of the fall refers to the angle at which you hit; falling backward poses less risk for fracture than falling straight down or sideways.

A change in posture or reflexive response as you fall, such as grabbing onto an object as you descend or putting out your hands to catch yourself, may reduce your risk of fracture. However, it also may be that you only break a different bone than you would have otherwise, a wrist or arm bone instead of a hip, for example. However, due to the high health risks associated with a hip fracture, you may consider the risk of breaking a different bone the lesser of two evils.

You face an overall decreased risk of fracture from a fall if you modify even one of these three factors.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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