The Inflatable Hip Protection of the Future

Motion Blur Stretcher Gurney Patient Hospital Emergency
When elderly people fall, they may have more trouble recovering from injuries. Hips seem to be especially vulnerable during falls, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating that there were 258,000 people aged 65 or older admitted to the hospital for hip fractures in 2010.

Hip fractures can also cause fatal complications, with 20% of patients with hip fractures dying within a year of injury. Moreover, one-third of adults who had previously lived on their own need to reside in a nursing home for at least a year after a hip injury.

Pennsylvania-based company ActiveProtective and Netherlands firm the Wolk Company are working independently to prevent hip fractures. Both companies are developing a belt that senses changes in motion that indicate a fall and inflates to protect the wearer’s hips. The Wolk Company has a prototype, but has yet to run any tests. ActiveProtective’s product is currently undergoing functional testing, with a 90% success rate, and human trials will begin this year.

The Wolk Company’s belt will be marketed toward the 300,000 people in assisted living homes in the Netherlands.

“Our launch customers are people in nursing homes,” Founder Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar told, “Ideally they would wear it from the moment they get up in the morning to the moment they go to bed at night.”

ActiveProtective’s belt looks like a low-profile fanny pack, and can be worn over or beneath clothing, according to personal preference. When inflated, the airbag runs down the sides of the person’s hips. The Wolk Company’s prototype is a bit larger, but the company is committed to giving it a more ergonomic design to keep users from becoming self-conscious.

The Wolk Company expects their belt to be on the market early in 2016, and plans on pricing it at €400. ActiveProtective’s belt is planned to be ready for sale later in 2016.

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