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Testosterone gel gives women hope after hip fractures

Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall, and every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from one. Doctors are trying to improve those statistics. They’re testing weight-lifting and testosterone supplements to give women who break a hip a better shot at a full recovery.

Joan Mowery hits the gym twice a week.

It’s all part of her recovery from a broken hip.

Mowery said, “I might be 79 physically, but mentally, I’m not, and you know, no, this ain’t gonna stop me.”

LINK: How to Survive a Hip Fracture

Each year, 300,000 Americans break a hip. Seventy-five percent never get back to the function they had before the fracture.

“When I saw the statistics, I was horrified. I really was. Seventy-five percent? That’s outrageous,” said Mowery.
But that’s not the only grim statistic.

“A significant number of patients do not survive after the hip fracture. There’s about a 25 percent mortality rate within the first year,” said Ellen Binder, MD, a Geriatrician at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Binder is testing a testosterone supplement with an extended weight-lifting program to improve those odds for women.

“They are getting better. And they are getting stronger,” Dr. Binder said.

Testosterone increases muscle and bone mass. Women use the gel once a day and lift weights twice a week for six months. A pilot study shows this approach improves mobility, lean body mass and strength.

“The functional aspect of this is really the muscles getting stronger; the walking getting better; the balance getting better,” Dr. Binder told Ivanhoe.
Mowery has already seen the benefit.

“Not only am I improving on the side that was fractured. I’m improving all the way around,” said Mowery.

She plans to join her own gym when the study is over. There’s no chance she’ll let herself become a statistic.

“I got too much to do. I’m not done,” Mowery shared.

On average, most people will get about three weeks of inpatient rehab after a hip fracture, depending on their insurance, followed by a few weeks at home. The rehab program in this study is six full months. Doctors hope that extended rehab will get women back to their old selves and reduce the risk of future fractures. The study is still recruiting patients in St. Louis, Denver, Boston, Baltimore, Galveston, Texas and Farmington, Connecticut.

Contributors to this news report include: Stacie Overton Johnson, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Jamison Kozcan, Editor.

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