Broken ankles do not necessarily indicate osteoporotic fracture risk among aging women

Though a number of studies have associated hip and vertebral pressure fractures with an increased likelihood of osteoporosis, a new study from a team of Canadian researchers indicated that broken ankles do not confer a greater risk of subsequent osteoporotic fractures among women age 50 or older.

This finding, which appeared in the journal Osteoporosis International, confirmed the results of several previous studies, all of which determined that postmenopausal ankle fractures do not necessarily indicate the presence of progressive bone loss.

For instance, a 2006 study in the Hong Kong Medical Journal (HKMJ) found that women over the age of 60 who were hospitalized for broken ankles tended to have higher bone mass densities than those admitted for hip or femur fractures.

Likewise, the HKMJ report noted that exactly 50 percent of women with ankle fractures were diabetic, suggesting that diabetes does not influence the likelihood that a broken ankle is osteoporosis-related.

In the latest study, scientists monitored the rate of ankle fracture among 12,000 women listed in the Manitoba Bone Density Program database. One-quarter of them had diabetes.

In particular, the team kept an eye out for women who suffered major osteoporotic fractures within five years of breaking an ankle.

Overall, scientists found that for women without diabetes, ankle fractures predicted future osteoporosis-related bone injuries with just 16 percent accuracy.

For diabetic participants, the diagnostic relevance of a broken ankle was even weaker. Among women with diabetes, the injury predicted subsequent bone loss-related fractures with 13 percent accuracy.

Nevertheless, the study's authors confirmed that other factors do predict the risk of osteoporotic fracture with consistency. These included high body mass index, smoking, alcohol use, poor diet and a family history of osteoporosis.

More than 2 million osteoporosis-related fractures occur each year in the U.S. Those that are a result of low bone density most commonly occur in the vertebrae, hips, wrists and pelvis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.