Falls prevention

Dr Skelton is also Scientific Co-ordinator for The Prevention of Falls Network Europe (ProFaNE). Falls are a major source of death and injury in elderly people. Age –related changes in the physiological systems (samatosensory, vestibular and visual) which contribute to the maintenance of balance are well documented in older adults, these changes, coupled with age-related changes in muscle and bone, are likely to contribute to an increased risk of falls in this population. Risk factors for falls and falls related injuries are poor balance, weak strength, asymmetry between lower limb power and poor functional ability.

The newly issued National Service Framework for Older People acknowledges the role of specific exercises on preventing and managing falls and fall-related injuries in older people. It identifies the need to find suitable activities for them that have balance improvement at the core of the programme, but also address poor power and lower limb asymmetry. A study was designed to investigate effects of BalanceMaster™ training after 4 weeks (3×20 min) on lower limb strength and overall balance confidence.

In the trial, 25 men and women aged between 64 and 93, with self-assessed poor balance, we recruited and designated into control, or exercise groups. They had a variety of medical conditions contributing to balance problems. After the trial, Dr Skelton concluded that 12 sessions over a 4 week period on the BalanceMaster™ significantly improved lower limb strength and power, and balance and ability to perform everyday task all of which are risk factors for falls. Muscle strength contributes to joint stabilization, improving balance and preventing soft tissue injuries as seen in elderly individuals.

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