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Martial arts techniques may help older people prevent hip fractures

April 22, 2010 | 12:57 pm

Hip fractures from falls can be catastrophic for older people with osteoporosis. But a new study found that learning a few martial arts-based fall techniques could help lessen the severity of those tumbles.

L0qmbqnc The study participants, however, weren't older men and women -- they were 12 people age 23 to 44 who did martial arts training on either a 1 1/2-inch-thick judo mat or a 10-inch-thick gymnasium mattress. For safety reasons, researchers decided against testing people who actually had osteoporosis.

After being trained in fall techniques, the participants performed sideways and forward fall techniques (which pose the biggest risk for direct hip force and hip fractures) from both kneeling and standing positions. The vertical forces from hip impacts were measured by a force plate. Researchers determined that those with osteoporosis should wear hip protectors during training to minimize impact forces.

The most significant parts of the martial arts fall techniques are learning a rolling movement and protecting the head. In the rolling movement the trunk and neck are curved to help stop the head from hitting the ground. Slapping the arm down is another technique used to stop the rolling movement.

After measuring impact forces, researchers determined that martial arts fall training could be safe for people with osteoarthritis if they wear hip protectors, practice falls on a thick gym mattress and avoid forward falls from a standing position.

The study appears in the journal BMC Research Notes.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo: Arnulfo Franco / Associated Press