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Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy:
doi: 10.1097/JPT.0b013e3181defbb1
Research Reports

Adaptability to Perturbation as a Predictor of Future Falls: A Preliminary Prospective Study

Pai, Yi-Chung PhD1,2; Wang, Edward PhD3; Espy, Debbie D. MSPT1,2; Bhatt, Tanvi PhD1

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Background: Falls often result from failed responses to unexpected, externally applied perturbations. Whether performance-based, reaction-based, and/or adaptation-based assessment tools can predict future falls among community-dwelling older adults is unknown.

Purpose: This preliminary prospective study examined the relationship between older adults' future fall risk and their reactive responses and adaptations to repeated slips, and their functional status.

Methods: Thirteen community-dwelling adults (>64 years) were exposed initially to a session of repeated slips. About 30 months later, self-reported falls experience data were collected for the preceding year from these participants. Slip outcome (fall, loss of balance, or recovery), slip score (weighted sum of slip outcomes), Timed Up and Go scores, and future fall incidence were recorded.

Results: Four participants who reported at least 1 fall had significantly higher slip scores than the rest. In contrast, neither failed recovery on the first slip nor a higher TUG score predicted greater odds of future falls.

Conclusion: Community-dwelling older adults' adaptability to externally imposed perturbations may reveal their future fall risk.

Copyright © 2010 the Section on Geriatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association


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