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Characteristics of Turning that are Predictive of Falls in an Older Adult Population

1 May 2002


Background And Purpose. Research suggests that approximately 25-35% of people over the age of 65 will experience one or more falls each year. Research also suggests that the majority of hip fractures, at least 95%, are fall related. Falling during turning while walking has been identified as predictive of subsequent hip fracture. The purpose of this study was to determine if the turning difficulty characteristics of adults aged 65 years or older, as identified by Thigpen et aI, can accurately predict falls.

Methods. Thirty-eight subjects, 21 self-reported non-fallers and 17 self-reported fallers, from a residential living facility were included in this study. Each subject was videotaped performing the "Timed Up and Go" test and the four turning characteristics were measured. The turning characteristics were 1) the number of steps to complete the turn, 2) the time to complete the tum, 3) whether there was a pivot strategy, and 4) whether there was a stagger during the tum.

Results. Of the five characteristics, four turning and a self-report of previous falls, only the number of steps during the tum was significant for fall prediction. The results indicate that more than 7 steps to complete the tum was predictive of future falls during the four-month follow-up with the sample population.

Discussion and Conclusion. Given the incidence and consequences of falls among older adults, screening methods that identify elderly individuals who are prone to falls and who may benefit from interventions designed to improve balance and decrease falls and risk for falls is critical. The results of this study open the door for future studies to determine the clinical practicality of counting the steps while turning and for expanding on this study's sample population.


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