Objective: To document symptomatic fracture incidence in those aged under 50 years of age.
Methods: Fractures were ascertained from X-ray reports containing the word 'fracture' from all radiology providers for the geographically defined population of southern Tasmania (n = 165 175) for the period 1 July 1997 to 30 June 1999.
Results: In the 2-year study frame there were 2943 fractures in 164 730 person years in males and 1348 fractures in 165 620 person years in females. This represents a fracture incidence of 1787 per 100 000 person years in males and 819 per 100 000 person years in females. Peak fracture incidence was 10-14 years in females and 15-19 years in males although different fracture types had varying peak incidence suggesting different fracture-specific causes. The most common fractures were those of the hand (24%), forearm (17%), wrist (10%) and foot (9%). All fractures (including vertebral) were more common in males with relative risks ranging from 1.34 to 4.50. The estimated probability of at least one fracture between birth and 50 years of age was 59% for males and 34% for females.
Conclusion: There are threefold as many fractures in this age group compared to those due to osteoporosis in the elderly in any given year. More research priority needs to be given to understanding the causes of these fractures so that preventive strategies can be formulated.