Many of my patients are seniors living an active lifestyle. However, a number of them have osteoporosis in the hip. Because a fall can happen at any time, the chance of a fracture limits their activity level. I recommend that they wear hip pad protectors when they are active.
My search landed me in New Zealand (in the virtual sense) where I found a company that makes padded hip protectors for elderly but (with some encouragement) was willing to design and produce hip pad protectors for active seniors.
Before I describe the hip pad protector from New Zealand, let’s discuss how people with osteoporosis are at an elevated risk of a hip fracture.
Most Common Osteoporotic Fractures
Hip fractures are not only life changing, they can be catastrophic. Twenty five percent of men and almost as many women who sustain hip fractures die within the first year. I worked with many people over my years on the surgical floor and in rehab. I don’t wish it on any of you.
Why Do Hip Fractures Occur?
How do hip fractures happen if you have osteoporosis? Let’s have a look at the anatomy of the hip.
You can see that the hip joint is made up of the acetabulum of the pelvis and the head of the femur, or thigh bone.
When bone density is low, the force transmitted from a fall, slip or trip can be enough force to cause a break at the femoral neck.
Accidents such as falling off your bike, running for a ball on the court, or taking a tumble skiing create even more force and further increase the risk of a fracture.
How Often Do Hip Fractures Occur?
Hip fractures, unfortunately, occur too often and because of our aging population, the number appears to be growing. Each year hundreds of thousands of people are admitted to hospital with hip fractures.
For example, about 76,000 hip fractures occurred during 2021 in the UK. In the US, the number was over a quarter of a million hip fractures in 2021. Several of my patients fractured their hip in the last year.
We know hip pad protectors don’t stop you from falling, but they do reduce the risk of a fracture if you wear them.
What Are Hip Protectors?
Hip protectors are personal protective wear.
Most styles of hip protectors look like tight fitting shorts with pads on the outside of the shorts on either side. Ideally, the pads are positioned directly over the most prominent part of the hip (greater trochanter) in order to be able to absorb the impact sustained in a fall.
My Search for the Best Hip Protector for Seniors
I purchased and tested several commercially available hip protectors and found that although some were close to my requirements, neither hip protector fit the bill.
During my research on the subject, I came across a study (1) comparing 18 different hip protectors using a standard mechanical test. The better the hip protector absorbed forces, the better they performed on the test. The best hip protectors dampen the impact forces are reduce the risk of a hip fracture.
I tried the ImpactWear, Burton, and G-Form hip protectors because they were easily available. Their design and intent is for the active adult and youth. All three use G-Form pad technology.
Unfortunately, the G-Form pads (used in the ImpactWear, Burton and G-Form hip protectors) scored 16th out of 18 different hip pad protectors.
The Delloch Hip Protectors
There was one company that rose above the rest in the study: The Delloch Hip Protectors. Their hip protectors scored in first, second and third place out of the 18 units.
I contacted Mr. Terry Vickers at Delloch. He kindly shared samples of his hip protectors.
Unfortunately, the hip protectors he provided at the time (those that scored in the first three places in the CSA test) were designed for the elderly. They were bulky and unattractive.
We tested them with ten of my clients and surveyed them for feedback. They were not popular with this group of my clients.
Best Hip Pad Protectors
Over a period of several months, we had back and forth discussions looking for ways to make them more appealing to active seniors. We tried a variety of colours as well as slimmer pads that offered superior protection.
I am excited to say that Delloch has come up with what I believe to be the best hip protectors for the active adult on the market today!
- They are comfortable — made with breathable 100% cotton.
- The protective pads are slimmer and have been tested in Germany and rated for motorcycle grade protection.
- They are more affordable than their competitors.
- The hip protector shorts are cute enough to wear when working out or under your sports wear when hiking and skiing.
- They make me feel safer when I zip along on my ebike or play pickleball, my new favorite sport.
- They are both comfortable and slim enough to wear under my regular clothing.
Whether you are hitting the slopes, the trails, or the court — keep yourself safe and make these Delloch hip protectors a part of your active wear.
The next few sections provide more background on hip protectors for fall protection, especially as it relates to individuals with osteoporosis.
Where Can You Buy the Delloch Hip Protectors for Active Seniors?
The Delloch hip protectors can be purchased at the Delloch website.
Hip Protectors for Seniors
Comfort is key for independent active seniors.
Other important considerations include:
- Fit and appearance.
- How easy are they to take on and off.
- Ease of laundering.
- How effective they reduce forces from a fall that occurs during more aggressive activities beyond walking.
In selecting a shield for the hip protectors that target the active adult, Delloch sourced a pad that met the best practice industry standard for falls from a motorcycle. (2)
The EN1621 Standard is a world wide rating of protective gear for motorcycle use.
Please note that protective equipment manufacturers, including Delloch, cannot guarantee a fracture will not occur in the event of a fall.
As you are aware, the levels of osteoporosis vary from person to person. In addition, impact depends on the type of fall. Even considering these two variables, the Delloch hip pad protectors provide best in class protection.
Hip Protectors for Falls
Not all hip protectors are created equal.
A 2018 paper titled the Biomechanics testing of hip protectors following the Canadian Standards Association express documents is the first study to use a standard mechanical test to allow for a true comparison of the most popular hip protectors on the market at that time.
Hip protectors are intended to protect you from a sideways fall onto your hip. There has not been a study of hip protectors with active adults.
Hip Protectors for Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a diagnosis given to individuals who have lost bone density based on their DEXA or bone density test.
When someone has low bone density, there can be a higher risk of fracture, especially if they also have poor bone quality.
Hip pad protectors obviously do not protect the wrist or spine, two of the three vulnerable areas for fractures, but they do protect the hip.
Do Hip Protectors Really Work?
Most of the studies were conducted on users who live in residential care settings.
A 2014 Cochrane review (3) analyzed a total of 14 studies. With over 11,000 users the evidence of the results was of moderate quality, showing a small reduction in hip fractures.
The same review analyzed 5 studies, with over 5,500 users. The evidence of the results was also of moderate quality showing little or no effect on hip fracture risk.
Having said this, the conflicting/poor results can be contributed to several factors:
- Individuals in the study did not wear their hip protectors daily.
- Not all the participants had osteoporosis or were at high risk of a fracture.
- Different types of hip protectors were used in the different studies.
Is There Value in Using Hip Protectors?
The 2014 review (3) concluded that if worn regularly and properly, hip protectors probably reduce the risk of a fracture.
Padded Hip Protectors for the Elderly
In addition to the hip protectors for active seniors, Delloch carries hip protectors for the elderly and individuals with dementia.
Their Closed Pocket hip protector has the pad sewn in, making it impossible for the wearer to remove or loosen a pad. The underwear hip protector garment features seams that are flat and will not create pressure sores on sensitive skin as there are no ridges. Shields or pads are made from a soft memory foam allowing them to be worn in bed.
While these hip protectors provide the highest grade of protection, they are bulky and not appealing to the active senior. This is why I recommend the new hip protector developed by Delloch.
Stay hip, stay active and stay safe!
- Keenan BE, Evans SL. Biomechanical testing of hip protectors following the Canadian Standards Association express document. Osteoporosis International (2019) 30:1205-1214. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00198-019-04914-x
- British Standards Catalogue. Motorcyclists’ protective clothing against mechanical impact
- Santesso et al. Cochrane Database of Sys Rev. 2014;3: CD001255. Cianferotti et al. Calcif Tissue Int. 2015; 97(1):1-11.
For more information, check out my Osteoporosis Guidelines.