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Physiother Can. 2011 Fall;63(4):423-31. doi: 10.3138/ptc.2010-32. Epub 2011 Oct 20.

Postural Control Is Impaired in People with COPD: An Observational Study.

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  • 1Department of Physical Therapy.



We investigated deficits in postural control and fall risk in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


Twenty people with moderate to severe COPD (mean age 72.3 years, standard deviation [SD] 6.7 years) with a mean forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV(1)) of 46.7% (SD 13%) and 20 people (mean age 68.2 years, SD 8.1) who served as a comparison group were tested for postural control using the Sensory Organization Test (SOT). A score of zero in any trial of the SOT was registered as a fall. On the basis of the SOT results, participants were categorized as frequent fallers (two or more falls) or as fallers (one fall). To explore the potential influence of muscle weakness on postural control, knee extensors concentric muscle torque was assessed with an isokinetic dynamometer. Physical activity level was assessed with the Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly.


People with COPD showed a 10.8% lower score on the SOT (p=0.016) and experienced more falls (40) than the comparison group (12). The proportion of frequent fallers and fallers during the SOT was greater (p=0.021) in the COPD group (four of 10) than in the comparison group (two of seven). People with COPD showed deficits in knee extensors muscle strength (p=0.01) and a modest trend toward reduced physical activity level. However, neither of these factors explained the deficits in postural control observed in the COPD group.


People with COPD show deficits in postural control and increased risk of falls as measured by the SOT. The deficits in postural control appear to be independent of muscle weakness and level of physical activity. Postural control interventions and fall risk strategies in the pulmonary rehabilitation of COPD are recommended.


balance, postural; chronic obstructive; falls, accidental; muscle strength; proprioception; pulmonary disease

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