Energy-Shunting Hip Padding System Attenuates Femoral Impact Force in a Simulated Fall

[+] Author and Article Information
S. N. Robinovitch, W. C. Hayes

Orthopedic Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Charles A. Dana Research Institute, Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215

T. A. McMahon

Division of Applied Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138

J Biomech Eng 117(4), 409-413 (Nov 01, 1995) (5 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2794200 History: Received May 27, 1993; Revised October 19, 1994; Online October 30, 2007


Recent studies suggest that hip padding systems reduce the incidence of hip fractures during falls. However, no data exist on the force attenuating capacity of hip pads under realistic fall impact conditions, and thus it is difficult to compare the protective merit of various pad designs. Our goal is to design a comfortable hip padding system which reduces femoral impact force in a fall below the mean force required to fracture the elderly cadaveric femur. In pursuit of this objective, we designed and constructed a hip pad testing system consisting of an impact pendulum and surrogate human pelvis. We then developed a hip pad containing a shear-thickening material which allows for shunting of the impact energy away from the femur and into the surrounding soft tissue. Finally, we conducted experiments to assess whether the surrogate pelvis accurately represents the impact behavior of the human female pelvis in a fall, and to determine whether our energy-shunting pad attenuates femoral impact force in a fall more effectively than seven available padding systems. We found the surrogate pelvis accurately represented the human female pelvis in regional variation in soft tissue stiffness, total effective stiffness and damping, and impact force attenuation provided by trochanteric soft tissues. We also found that our padding system attenuated femoral impact force by 65 percent, thereby providing two times the force attenuation of the next best system. Moreover, the energy-shunting pad was the only system capable of lowering femoral impact force well below the mean force required to fracture the elderly femur in a fall loading configuration. These results suggest that the force attenuating potential of hip pads which focus on shunting energy away from the femur is superior to those which rely on absorbing energy in the pad material. While these in-vitro results are encouraging, carefully designed prospective clinical trials will be necessary to determine the efficacy of these approaches to hip fracture prevention.

Copyright © 1995 by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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