Floor Covering

Did you know that carpeting and rugs are the number one cause of trips and falls?

Falls are a leading cause of unintentional injury among adults age 65 years and older. Loose, unsecured rugs and damaged carpets with curled edges, are recognized environmental hazards that may contribute to falls. To characterize nonfatal, unintentional fall-related injuries associated with rugs and carpets in adults aged 65 years and older.

Annually, an estimated 37,991 adults age 65 years or older were treated in U.S. EDs for falls associated with carpets (54.2%) and rugs (45.8%). Most falls (72.8%) occurred at home. Women represented 80.2% of fall injuries. The most common location for fall injuries in the home was the bathroom (35.7%). Frequent fall injuries occurred at the transition between carpet/rug and non-carpet/rug, on wet carpets or rugs, and while hurrying to the bathroom.

Loose throw rugs and area carpets with curled edges or folds are among the extrinsic factors most frequently mentioned in the literature as unsafe and potentially increasing fall risk.20,23,24 Research has shown that hazardous rugs and carpets may be the most common environmental hazard in the homes of older adults,25 with one study finding loose throw rugs in nearly 78% of the homes,26 curled carpet edges in more than 35%,26 an average of more than 11 rugs without nonslip backing in each home.25 These hazards are even more common in homes of frail older adults with disabilities,27 who are at higher risk for falls. Evidence also exists that these flooring types may increase risk of serious fall-related injury. Case control studies have found that both floor mats in hallways and bathmats significantly increased risk of hip fractures21 and that loose rugs / mats and flooring were among the most common objects in the home associated with falls resulting in hip fractures.28

Despite the intuitive connection between environmental hazards such as loose rugs and curled carpet edges and increased risk of falls, longitudinal research has shown mixed results. A hospital-based randomized controlled trial found that more falls occurred in the group housed in rooms with carpeted flooring than in rooms with vinyl flooring.29 Other studies, however, have not shown an association,30 and in one, the presence of loose throw rugs was actually associated with a decreased risk of fall among adults 65–84 years old.31

We chose to examine falls involving these flooring types, as the size and scope of this public health problem has not yet been well-defined. Our study objective is to more fully quantify and characterize fall injuries associated with rugs and carpets in older adults. To do this, we provide the first published U.S. national estimates of non-fatal fall-related injuries associated with these flooring types among adults aged 65 years and older that required emergency care. We hope to use this information to understand the public health burden of these injuries and to identify and prioritize appropriate intervention strategies.

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