by Keaton Thomas, KATU News
There has been a big uptick in the number of seniors with broken bones while walking their dogs on a leash, according to researchers who published a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association this month.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a 163 percent increase in the number of broken bones between 2004 and 2017 in the study, believed to be the first of its kind. They used data from 100 emergency departments from around the country to help their study.
There were 1,671 broken bones reported in 2004. That number rose to 4,396 in 2017. Nearly 80 percent of the people hurt were women.
“It’s really interesting and surprising in some ways,” said Bandana Shrestha, director of community engagement for the Oregon chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP.
She says the senior population is growing, with more than 10,000 people turning 65 years old every day. Women are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, or weaker bones, which Shrestha says could account for high percentage of women in the study data.
Researchers say the increase has two likely factors: More people with dogs and a greater emphasis on physical activity later in life.
“We don’t want to discourage people from walking and taking their dogs out, because that’s a wonderful thing to be able to do, but falls are serious,” Shrestha said.
AARP Oregon has a neighborhood walking program, but Shrestha says they don’t allow dogs for this reason.
“It’s something we’ve heard from walkers, they’re concerned about dogs and getting tripped up,” she said.
Falls are the leading cause of injury or death among seniors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016, nearly 30,000 people over the age of 65 died from a fall.
According to the study, upper arm fractures were the most common. The most commonly broken bone was the hip.
“The gravity of this burden is exemplified by the hip being most frequently fractured, because this injury is associated with long-term decreases in quality of life and functional capabilities, as well as mortality rates approaching 30%,” researchers wrote. “Combined with the sex disparity in injury burden, older women considering dog ownership must be made aware of this risk.”
Researchers suggested obedience training for dogs to not pull or lunge during walks on a leash, or getting smaller dogs for seniors.
Shrestha said seniors should consider letting go of the dog’s leash if it begins to pull during a walk to prevent a fall. She also suggested looking for a sturdy shoe.
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