We report the results of a randomised trial to determine the effects of skin traction on 252 patients awaiting surgery for fractures of the proximal femur. They were allocated randomly to be nursed free in bed or to receive Hamilton-Russell skin traction. No differences were found between the groups in terms of pain suffered, analgesia required, frequency of pressure sores or ease of operation. The application of skin traction to patients with fractures of the upper femur is time-consuming and we recommend therefore that its routine use should be discontinued.