April 2022


Falls and fall-related injuries are a major problem for older adults in both hospitals and care homes. Shock-absorbing flooring (such as carpet, sports floors, or specially designed floors) provides a more cushioned surface and is one potential solution to help reduce the impact forces from a fall. The aim of this study was to summarize what is known about shock-absorbing flooring for reducing injurious falls in hospitals and care homes.

From literature searches, we identified relevant studies on shock-absorbing flooring use in hospitals and care homes. We gathered data on the quality of the studies’ methods, what and who the studies involved, and the study findings. Members of the public were involved throughout the project. They helped improve the clarity of the reporting and collaborated in meetings to help guide the study team.

Findings: One high-quality study in a care home found that vinyl overlay with novel shock-absorbing underlay was no better at reducing injuries than vinyl overlay with plywood underlay on concrete subfloors. We found very low-quality evidence that shock-absorbing flooring may reduce injuries in hospitals and care homes, without increasing falls; if this were true, then economic evidence suggested that shock-absorbing flooring would be the best-value option for patients (lower cost and improved outcomes). There was insufficient evidence to determine the effects of shock-absorbing flooring on fractures or head injuries, although wooden subfloors resulted in fewer hip fractures than concrete subfloors. Shock-absorbing flooring made it harder for staff to move equipment such as beds and trolleys and led to staff changing how they work.

Implications: The evidence suggests that one type of shock-absorbing floor may not work in care homes, compared with rigid flooring; however, gaps still exist in the knowledge. The evidence in favor of shock-absorbing flooring was of very low quality, meaning it is uncertain. There is a lack of robust evidence in hospitals, which often have concrete subfloors and different population characteristics. If planning to install shock-absorbing flooring, it is important to consider the wider impacts on the workplace and how best to manage these.

Source: Drahota A, Felix LM, Raftery J, et al. Shock-absorbing flooring for fall-related injury prevention in older adults and staff in hospitals and care homes: the SAFEST systematic review. Health Technol Assess. 2022;26(5):1-196.

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