With the population older than 65 years, projected to double by the year 2030, falls in older adults are a substantial health concern. Muscle strength deficits are one of the multifactorial components linked to increased fall risk, and decreasing these deficits has been one of the goals of interventions designed to decrease fall risk. These interventions have traditionally focused on improving peak torque; however, recent research suggests that exercise protocols that focus on the rate of torque development (RTD) may be more effective in decreasing fall risk.
This case report examines clinical outcomes following implementation of an isokinetic strengthening protocol coupled with a balance program designed to reduce fall risk in a community-dwelling older adult.
The individual was a 70-year-old woman with a history of 3 falls over the past 8 months and no related medical etiology who had self-limited her activities because of fear of another fall. She was classified as having substantial risk for future falls because of fall history, increased fear of falling, and below age norms on the Berg Balance Scale (BBS), and the Timed Up and Go (TUG). The treatment program consisted of 12 weeks of high-intensity isokinetic knee extensor training, high challenge dynamic gait and balance activities, and core strengthening. The isokinetic protocol consisted of 4 sets of 10 concentric-only repetitions at speeds of 240°/sec and 300°/sec for a total of 8 work sets. Dynamic gait activities incorporating directional and obstacle drills, and rocker and balance boards were used for balance training activities. Progressive theraband exercises were used for core strengthening. As her home program, the participant was encouraged to return to line dancing twice per week. During the 12-week protocol, the participant completed two 90-minute therapy sessions and two 90-minute dance classes per week.
After the 12 weeks of treatment, knee extensor peak torque at 150 ms improved on the right from 67.8 N to 107.1 N (57.9% increase), and on the left from 65.1 N to 97.6 N (49.9% increase). The BBS score improved from 45 to 52; and the TUG improved from 14.0 to 8.6 seconds. Both final scores exceeded fall risk cutoffs (BBS = 48; TUG = 13.5 seconds) and the change score exceeded minimal detectable change (BBS = 7; TUG 5.4 seconds).
The treatment program produced improvements in knee extensor peak torque and RTD, but more importantly, the final scores on the clinical outcome measures placed the participant above established fall-risk cutoff scores. Although future research with increased numbers of participants and a control group should be conducted to confirm this study's results, these findings support the use of isokinetic training to reduce fall risk in older adults.