August 2019

Soft tissue stiffness over the hip increases with age and its implication in hip fracture risk in older adults

Authors: K. T. Lim, W. J. Choi

Affiliations: Injury Prevention and Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Physical Therapy, Yonsei University, Wonju, South Korea

Journal: Journal of Biomechanics - August 2019, Volume 93, Pages 28-33 (DOI: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2019.06.002)

Risk of hip fracture depends on the bone strength as well as the impact force delivered to the proximal femur during falls, and femoral soft tissue may help to reduce the hip fracture risk by attenuating the impact force. Femoral soft tissue stiffness was measured from a large sample, and compared how this was affected by age, gender and site.

One hundred fifty healthy individuals (fifty-two young (aged between 19 and 29), forty-eight middle-aged (30–64), and fifty old (over 65)) participated. Each age group included an equal number of males and females. Using an automated hand-held indentation device, soft tissue stiffness was measured over twelve sites with respect to the greater trochanter (GT).

For both left and right hips, the stiffness was associated with age (p < 0.0005), gender (p < 0.0005), and site (p < 0.0005). On average, the stiffness was 26% greater in older than young adults (321.5 versus 254.3 N/m). On average across twelve sites, the regression analysis indicated that the stiffness increases 1.33 N/m every year (‘‘soft tissue stiffness over the hip = 1.33*age + 221.8”; R = 0.518, p < 0.0005). Furthermore, the stiffness was 18% greater in male than female (308.8 versus 262.6 N/m), and differed across twelve sites over the hip, being greatest (424.2 N/m) at the GT, and least (206.3 N/m) at the superior gluteal region.

The results provide insights into the shock absorbing property of soft tissue over the hip, and inform the improvement of fall-related injury prevention interventions (i.e., hip protector, safe landing strategies) in older adults.


Keywords: falls, hip fracture, older adults, soft tissue, stiffness

In summary, soft tissue stiffness over the hip increases with age, and changes with gender and sites with respect to the GT. The results should help to improve and develop the hip fracture prevention strategies in older adults.