Force platform balance measures as predictors of indoor and outdoor falls in community-dwelling women aged 63-76 years

Satu Pajala, Pertti Era, Markku Koskenvuo, Jaakko Kaprio, Timo Törmäkangas, Taina Rantanen
Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 2008, 63 (2): 171-8

BACKGROUND: Inability to maintain balance while standing increases risk of falls in older people. The present study assessed whether center of pressure (COP) movement measured with force platform technology predicts risk for falls among older people with no manifest deficiency in standing balance.

METHODS: Participants were 434 community-dwelling women, aged 63-76 years. COP was measured in six stances on a force platform. Following balance tests, participants reported their falls with 12 monthly calendars. Incidence rate ratios (IRR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were computed from negative binomial regression models. For the analysis, those with > or =1 fall indoors were coded "indoor fallers," those with > or =1 fall outdoors, but no indoor falls, were coded "outdoor fallers." Outcome in the models was number of falls. Analyses were repeated including only participants without fall history prior to follow-up.

RESULTS: Among 198 fallers, there were 57 indoor and 132 outdoor fallers. The participants in the highest COP movement tertile, irrespective of the balance test, had a two- to fourfold risk for indoor falls compared to participants in the lowest COP tertile of the test. Inability to complete the tandem stance was also a significant predictor of the fall risk. The trend for increased risk for indoor falls was found also for participants in the highest COP movement tertile and without fall history. The COP movement in balance tests was not associated with outdoor falls.

CONCLUSION: Force platform balance tests provide valid information of postural control that can be used to predict fall risk even among older people without apparent balance problems or fall history. When the force platform is not available, tandem stance provides a screening tool to show increased fall risk in community-dwelling older people.

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