HYPOTHESIS: Older patients (those aged > or = 70 years) who have experienced trauma have an increased risk of recurrent trauma. Demographic, medical, and functional factors are potential contributors to the risk of subsequent trauma among injured elderly patients. DESIGN: Retrospective follow-up study. PARTICIPANTS: Study participants were derived from the Longitudinal Study of Aging, an extension of the 1984 National Health Interview Survey focusing on persons who were aged 70 years and older in 1984. A cohort of elderly patients participating in the Longitudinal Study of Aging and hospitalized for injury in 1985 (n = 100) was identified using Medicare hospital discharge data. An uninjured cohort (n = 401) was also identified from the Longitudinal Study of Aging and matched for age (1 year) and sex. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Risk of admission for trauma among the injured cohort compared with the uninjured cohort and associations between demographic, medical, and functional characteristics and trauma recurrence. RESULTS: Following adjustment for potential confounding factors, the injured cohort was 3.25 times more likely (95% confidence interval, 1.99-5.31) to be hospitalized for injury during the follow-up period compared with the uninjured cohort. Among the injured cohort, those at greatest risk of subsequent trauma included women and those with chronic medical conditions or functional impairments, the latter being the only factor independently associated with recurrence. CONCLUSIONS: Elderly patients who have experienced trauma are at increased risk of subsequent injury. Interventions to reduce the likelihood of trauma recurrence should focus on those with chronic illnesses and functional impairments.