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Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1999 Mar;80(3):262-9.

Functional reach: does it really measure dynamic balance?

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  • 1Physical Therapy Department, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.



Functional reach (FR) is a new clinical measurement intended to assess dynamic balance. The purposes of this study were (1) to measure the mean FR distance in healthy elders compared with individuals with known balance impairments, (2) to analyze the extent to which FR measures dynamic balance, and (3) to describe movement strategies used during FR.


Thirteen healthy elders and 15 individuals with vestibular hypofunction (VH) were tested during FR and free gait. Whole body kinematic and kinetic data including the center of gravity (CG) and center of pressure (CP) using 11 body segments and two force plates, respectively, were collected.


There was no difference in FR distance between healthy elders and individuals with VH. FR distance was not correlated to lateral stability measures, but was related to anterior-posterior postural control measures of FR (r = .69 to .84) in both groups. Although FR distance strongly correlated with maximum moment arm during FR in both groups, the correlations were not as strong when the subjects were then classified by movement strategy. The mean moment arm during FR was significantly less than that of free gait.


These data suggest FR does not measure dynamic balance; healthy elders and balance-impaired individuals with vestibular dysfunction attained the same FR distance and did so without increasing the moment arm during or at the end of FR. Recording the strategy used during FR, however, may provide other valuable information necessary in addressing balance control. Clinical implications of assessing movement strategy are discussed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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