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Older people with wrist fracture tend to have poor balance

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Older adults who suffer a low energy wrist (distal radius) fracture are more likely to have difficulties with balance, placing them at risk for future injuries, according to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

Researchers set out to compare postural stability between older adults with and without a prior fragility fracture to the wrist. They evaluated 46 participants: 23 patients who had been treated for a wrist fracture within the past 6-24 months (age 65 or older at the time of injury), and 23 age and sex-matched control participants without a prior fracture.

All injuries in the wrist fracture group were caused by a low energy fall without a major traumatic event. Participants were excluded from the study if they had a history of an event or illness that impairs balance, such as a stroke, seizure or vertigo, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, reporting on the study.

Participants in both groups completed a balance assessment on a computerised platform to generate a dynamic motion analysis (DMA) score. They were also assessed on their bone-health history, vitamin D and calcium supplementation, and whether they were taking medication for osteoporosis, as well as general health and physical activity.

Results showed that although there were no significant differences in age, sex, body mass index, physical activity score or general health in both groups of participants, the fracture group had a higher DMA score, indicating impaired balance.

“Our study finds that older adults who sustain a wrist fracture are more likely to have poor balance compared to those who have not sustained this injury,” said lead study author Dr Craig R. Louer, an orthopaedic surgery resident at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “These fractures should signal the need for an evaluation and possible treatment for balance deficits to decrease the risk of subsequent higher risk injuries, such as hip or spine fractures.”