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Abstract

As with any structure, the structural capacity of the proximal femur depends on the applied loads and these can vary as a function of impact direction during a fall. However, despite its potential importance in hip fracture risk assessment, the relative importance of impact direction is unknown. To investigate the role of impact direction in hip fracture, we developed a detailed finite element model of the proximal femur. We analyzed four loading configurations that represent a range of possible falls on the greater trochanter. Our results indicate that a change in the angle between the line of action of the applied force and the axis of the femoral neck from 0° (representing a direct lateral impact) to 45° (representing a posterolateral impact) reduced structural capacity by 26%. This weakening of the femur with changes in impact direction is comparable to the weakening associated with 2–3 decades of age-related bone loss. Our result elucidates the independent contribution of fall mechanics to hip fracture risk by identifying an aspect of the fall (the direction of impact) that is an important determinant of fall severity. The results can also be incorporated into a refined clinical method for assessment of hip fracture risk that accounts for the complex interactions between fall severity and bone fragility.