Elderly people worried about falling and breaking a hip will often wear shock absorbing hip pads. They should save their money, says a new study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

We found that there was no benefit to the hip protector, said study author Dr. Douglas Kiel, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Contrary to the way they are promoted, currently available hip pads wont prevent hip fractures, he said.

The threat of falling and fracturing a hip is a very real one for the elderly population. An estimated 340,000 Americans break a hip every year, with most of the injuries associated with a fall.

The study authors say nursing home residents are the most vulnerable, with up to 50 percent falling each year.

In the study, conducted in nursing homes nationwide, there was no statistically significant difference in the incidence of hip fracture between those wearing hip protectors and those who were not. In fact, the hip fracture rates were 5.3 percent for protected hips as opposed to 3.5 percent for unprotected hips.

Kiel said there is a wide variety of hip protectors made for senior citizens, ranging in price from $30 to $175. Before buying them, he says, consumers should remember that most of them haven't been tested and haven't been proven effective.