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When The Hips Are Down

After a hip fracture 50% of older people can no longer live independently and often end up in residential care. As the battle for more beds wages

on, Tanita Cross asked William Beckett, CEO of Hip Impact Protection, if the 95% of hip fractures caused by falls can really be prevented.

At least once a year, 30% of people over-65 and half of people older than 80 fall over. It might not be serious the first time, but having a fall is one of the highest risk factors for falling down again. Fractures are a common complication of falls. A person’s hip is one of the most vulnerable parts of the body and the NHS deals with 86,000 hip fractures every year. Not only do hip fractures have a significant personal cost – 1 in 3 patients die within 12 months of a hip fracture – but also the NHS spends £1.7 billion a year on treating patients with the injury.

After watching his elderly sister- in-law fracture both of her hips in two separate falls, William Beckett embarked on a mission to find a way to mitigate the risk of hip fractures. When he started out, there were two types of hip protectors on the market. Dating from the early 2000s, the first was a hard shell protector, which was effective at preventing fractures but so uncomfortable that it was often discarded by users. Option two was a soft pad protector: it offered patients comfort, but it was not particularly effective at protecting bones.

“When you looked at the data, not surprisingly, the NHS and experts in the field said that hip protectors were potentially a good thing but in practice they really didn’t work very well,” explained William Beckett, who is now the Chief Executive Officer of

- 12 - Hip Impact Protection (HIP).

William’s search for a better solution was stalling until he stumbled upon D30. Invented by British entrepreneur and extreme sports enthusiast, Richard Palmer, D30 is a soft, malleable substance that moulds to the body’s contours but instantly hardens on impact – and shields the body from serious injury. William described D30 as the “best of both worlds” since it offers a high level of comfort, without compromising on protection.

“D30 has been extraordinarily successful across the world in extreme sports, contact sports, military, police, and all sorts of applications,” said William. “They hadn’t really tackled the medical area, so I got the license from them a few years ago and designed and produced these hip protectors. It seemed the perfect marriage of material and need.”

HIP’s protectors are now being sold all over the world, primarily to nursing and care homes, but also to individuals via Amazon and other online shopping sites. Business is steadily growing and William is now working to re-educate people on hip protectors as a viable option for injury prevention.

He commented: “When I was doing surveys of what care homes were doing, it was pretty clear that many of them had versions of hip protectors sitting in a cupboard somewhere

“The first two generations of h protectors hadn’t made a big d and, given the pressure many c are under, it’s very hard to sus intervention unless there is so that it really works – there was

that they hadn’t pulled out because they felt that it was an unproven technology. The first two generations of hip protectors – the hard ones and the soft ones – hadn’t made a big difference for them and, given the pressure many care homes are under, it’s very hard to sustain a particular type of intervention unless there is solid proof that it really works – there wasn’t any.”

HIP has tested its hip protectors alongside a range of others on the market and the company says its product reduces the impact of falls by about 70%. However, William does not intend to stop there.

A major problem with falls among older people – both in care homes and in the community – is that only

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