Characteristics of balance control in older persons who fall with injury—a prospective study

Ilan Kurz, Lars Oddsson, Itshak Melzer
Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 2013, 23 (4): 814-9

OBJECTIVE: Older adults who have recently fallen demonstrate increased postural sway compared with non-fallers. However, the differences in postural control between older adults who were seriously injured (SI) as a result of a fall, compared with those who fell but were not injured (NSI) and non-fallers (NFs), has not been investigated. The objective of the present study was to investigate the underlying postural control mechanisms related to injuries resulting from a fall.

METHODS: Both traditional postural sway measures of foot center-of-pressure (CoP) displacements and fractal measures, the Stabilogram-Diffusion Analysis (SDA), were used to characterize the postural control. One hundred older adults aged 65-91years were tested during narrow base upright stance in eyes closed condition; falls were monitored over a 1-year period.

RESULTS: Forty-nine older adults fell during the 1-year follow-up, 13 were seriously injured as a result of a fall (SI), 36 were not injured (NSI), and 49 were non-fallers (NFs); two passed away. The SDA showed significantly higher short-term diffusion coefficients and critical displacements in SI in the anterior-posterior direction compared with both NSI and NF. However, in the medio-lateral direction there were no statistically significant differences between groups. For the traditional measures of sway, the average anterior-posterior CoP range was also larger in SI individuals.

CONCLUSIONS: This work suggests that older fallers with a deterioration of anterior-posterior postural control may be at higher risk of serious injury following fall events.

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