The following is from an article in Pulse magazine. You may have to sign up to read it.
“Elderly patients have been advised by researchers to reduce the risk of broken bones through falls by taking up judo.
Scientists at Vrije University in Amsterdam claim osteoporosis sufferers could be trained to turn falls into rolls, wearing special hip protectors in their training to make it safe.”
Preserve me from ivory-towered scientists and their crackpot ideas – I don’t think I’ve read anything quite so insane. This week anyway – there’ll be more nutty ideas soon. Do these idiots think only hips get broken in falls? And rolling, itself, will stress other bones, putting them at risk of fracture.
And what of the dangers inherent in learning to fall with fragile bones? Perfectly fit people, as one commenter there says, suffer broken bones in judo, so just how many fractures is a person whose bones are fragile going to suffer, even with hip protectors? Also, they learn to fall on the normal mats used in judo – the real world is a lot harder and less predictable, and contains sharp corners.
And judo is somewhat formalised – experienced combatants have a good idea how they’re likely to fall in any given situation, can roll with it and bounce back up. I can assure you – from personal experience** – that in the real world falls are totally unexpected, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it in the split second between the realisation that you’re going down, and the impact.
**My knees don’t lock and, in addition, one or the other, sometimes both at once, can fold without warning, causing me to fall. In addition my leg muscles are wasted; my quads are almost non-existent; remaining vertical is an almost constant challenge and getting up from a fall impossible.
If you have participated in judo during your younger years, then that may possibly be of benefit when you get older – but if you have osteoporosis I certainly wouldn’t put money on it preventing fractures.
Walking aids, like crutches, can actually be a liability in a fall. Not only is it possible to fall on them, causing worse injuries that would be the case without them. In addition, in a fall they change from supports to levers, exerting potentially bone-breaking stresses on the fore-arm, especially with osteoporosis. They can also damage elbows and shoulders. This, again, is based on personal experience.
I really don’t know what the answer is to old people falling and breaking bones, but I’m damn sure it’s not judo. What might be a useful line of research is looking at the role of hip-protectors in everyday use. Is it possible to create one with minimal bulk and decent ventilation, that could be worn under normal clothes by those at risk? Makes more sense to me, even though it won’t stop them cracking their skull, or breaking arms. But at least they won’t be broken by some over-enthusiastic judo instructor.