While persons age 65 years and older account for only 13% of the total US population, they represent more than one-half of patients admitted to the hospital with a musculoskeletal injury. Advancing age, those 75 years and older, account for the largest share of these patients, with a rate of 3.4 in 100 of an age-adjusted population admitted to the hospital in a given year for a musculoskeletal injury and 14.7 in 100 seen in an emergency department. Fractures are the primary injury type among older patients hospitalized or seen in an emergency department. (Reference Table 6A.2.1 PDF CSV; Table 6A.2.2.2 PDF CSV; Table 6A.2.2.5 PDF CSV)
Falls are the primary cause of musculoskeletal injuries, increasing steadily with age and accounting for more than 80% of nonfatal unintentional injuries among persons aged 85 years and older seen in emergency departments in 2011. The rate of death due to a fall is the cause of more than 63% of unintentional injury deaths in persons age 85 years and older. After the age of 65, the proportion of hospital discharge patients with a musculoskeletal injury who are transferred to a skilled nursing, intermediate care, or other long-term care facility is more than one in two. (Reference Table 6A.3.1.2 PDF CSV; Table 6A.3.2.2 PDF CSV; Table 6A.4.2.1 PDF CSV)
With current average life expectancies of persons in their 40s, 50s, and 60s in the United States well beyond the age of 80 years, the risk of incurring a musculoskeletal injury is significant.