Fall-related injuries in the elderly are a pressing public health concern, with hip fractures being a significant injury type. In Sweden, approximately 17,500 individuals suffer from hip fractures each year, disproportionately affecting the elderly population. Statistics reveal that about two-thirds of fall-related injuries occur indoors, with estimated annual economic losses of around 25 billion SEK due to hip fractures. Given the aging population, this national urgency is expected to escalate significantly in the coming decades.
The primary objective of this project is to enhance the nation's resilience against fall-related injuries in the elderly by developing an innovative flooring prototype with experimentally verified protective performance. This novel flooring concept is built upon recent research on protective materials, encompassing thin/elongated spikes encapsulated within inner and outer layers. These spikes remain straight under lower loads (e.g., walking) but bend under higher forces during impacts. As a breakthrough, high-fidelity biomechanical finite element models will be employed and concurrently developed to optimize the flooring system's bending characteristics, ensuring that the impact forces transmitted to the human body remain below the established biomechanical threshold for hip fracture.
This project will achieve three main interrelated objectives: 1) Human body models will be developed and refined to capture dynamic responses in fall-related scenarios, enabling accurate estimation of hip contact forces. 2). Biomechanical simulation will assess the relationship between flooring parameters and hip loads induced by falls, identifying the optimal flooring design. 3) Numerical simulations will assess the protective performance of the innovative flooring prototype and compare its effectiveness to other commercially available structures.
At its completion, this project will shift the focus from mitigating injuries caused by purely radial impacts (which occur infrequently) to addressing oblique impacts, the primary loading mode during falls. A high-fidelity biomechanical hip model will be developed as well, yielding new insights into the mechanisms, standards, and thresholds for hip fracture injuries. These findings will be disseminated to industry and regulatory bodies, optimizing the prevention strategies hip injuries across Europe, and to enhanced public health and well-being, addressing a critical challenge posed by the aging demographic landscape.