Causes and Risk Factors for Distal Radius Fracture

Distal radius fractures—in fact, most wrist fractures—are almost always the result of falling onto an outstretched hand. People of any age fall and attempt to catch themselves, but certain people are at higher risk for suffering a fracture as the result.


The populations most at risk for a distal radius fracture are children and older adults, particularly older women. There are two reasons these populations are more at risk:

  • For pre-adolescent and adolescent children (about ages 8 to 11 for girls and 11 to 14 for boys), there is a period during which bones have grown longer because of growth spurts, but the bone mineral density has not yet caught up. This leaves the newly-grown bones more vulnerable to fractures, particularly during activities such as sports or play.1
  • Older adults are at greater fracture risk as hormone levels shift and bone mineral density starts to decrease, which is the same mechanism that causes osteoporosis. This is especially true for women once they reach menopause—women’s risk for a distal radius fracture begins to rise at age 50 and that risk doubles every 10 years. For men, the onset of age-related risk is much later, at age 80.1 Women may be able to lower their risk by taking measures to offset bone loss through diet and exercise.

Because falling onto an outstretched hand is the most common cause of a distal radius fracture, those who participate in sports that involve potential falls, such as in-line skating, skiing, or snowboarding, are also at greater risk for this injury.


Another potential cause for a distal radius fracture is a car accident or similar traumatic event. However, a majority of these fractures are the result of falls.


  • 1.Nellans KW, Kowalski E, Chung KC. The epidemiology of distal radius fractures. Hand Clin. 2012;28(2):113-25.