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Credit: Chase Sutton

A Penn Medicine study found that the number of bone fractures related to seniors walking their dogs has more than doubled in the past decade.

The study, published on March 6, concluded that bone fractures have increased by 163 percent in patients 65 years or older who walked leashed dogs from 2004 to 2017. The team also found that 78 percent of the fractures occurred in women and that the most common injuries were in the wrist, finger, upper arm, and shoulder. The researchers examined more than 30,000 cases from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database.

According to Penn Medicine News, the researchers cited two reasons that likely contributed to the rise of injuries: increasing rates of pet ownership and recent emphasis on physical activity among seniors. 

“Dog walking, which has repeatedly demonstrated social, emotional and physical health benefits, is a popular and frequently recommended activity for many older Americans seeking new ways to stay active,”  Kevin Pirruccio, the study's lead author and second-year medical student in the Perelman School of Medicine, told Penn Medicine News. 

“This study highlights that while there are undoubtedly pros to dog walking, patients’ risks for falls must be factored into lifestyle recommendations in an effort to minimize such injuries.”

Out of all total injuries, 17 percent were hip fractures, which is significant because there is a 30 percent mortality rate within a year of a senior getting a hip fracture. 

In the Philadelphia region, many hospitals have made efforts to increase urgency by expediting treatment of hip fractures in senior citizens, as researchers hope to increase survival rates.

A Frontiers in Psychology study found that there are physical and emotional benefits of owning a pet, such as relief from anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

Because the data only accounted for patients who visited the emergency department, the researchers said bone fractures may be even more prevalent. 

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