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Phys Ther. 2010 Mar;90(3):338-47. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20090163. Epub 2010 Jan 7.

Balance impairment as a risk factor for falls in community-dwelling older adults who are high functioning: a prospective study.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, Parkwood Hospital, Room A-283, 801 Commissioners Rd East, London, Ontario N6C5J1, Canada.



Screening should have simple and easy-to-administer methods that identify impairments associated with future fall risk, but there is a lack of literature supporting validation for their use.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the independent contribution of balance assessment on future fall risk, using 5 methods to quantify balance impairment, for the outcomes "any fall" and "any injurious fall" in community-dwelling older adults who are higher functioning.


This was a prospective cohort study.


A sample of 210 community-dwelling older adults (70% male, 30% female; mean age=79.9 years, SD=4.7) received a comprehensive geriatric assessment at baseline, which included the Berg Balance Scale to measure balance. Information on daily falls was collected for 12 months by each participant's monthly submission of a falls log calendar.


Seventy-eight people (43%) fell, of whom 54 (30%) sustained an injurious fall and 32 (18%) had recurrent falls (> or =2 falls). Different balance measurement methods identified different numbers of people as impaired. Adjusted relative risk (RR) estimates for an increased risk of any fall were 1.58 (95% confidence interval [CI]=1.06, 2.35) for self-report of balance problems, 1.58 (95% CI=1.03, 2.41) for one-leg stance, and 1.46 (95% CI=1.02, 2.09) for limits of stability. An adjusted RR estimate for an increased risk of an injurious fall of 1.95 (95% CI=1.15, 3.31) was found for self-report of balance problems. Limitations The study was a secondary analysis of data.


Not all methods of evaluating balance impairment are associated with falls. The number of people identified as having balance impairment varies with the measurement tool; therefore, the measurement tools are not interchangeable or equivalent in defining an at-risk population. The thresholds established in this study indicate individuals who should receive further comprehensive fall assessment and treatment to prevent falls.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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