Prevention exercises can help the elderly avoid falls, but can they also reduce injuries when a fall occurs? A recently-published meta-analysis indicates just such a possibility.
In the study, published October 29 in the British Medical Journal, researchers reviewed results of 17 trials involving 4,305 patients aged 60 and older living in community dwellings. Each of the studies compared patients who received falls prevention exercises with those who did not, and contained data on subsequent falls and the extent of injury sustained. Authors of the meta-analysis then grouped the injuries according to standardized classifications and reviewed seriousness of injuries across the studies.
The research revealed that in addition to lessening the rate of falls, prevention exercises also reduced the severity of injury when falls do occur, with estimated reductions of 37% for all injurious falls, 43% for severe injurious falls, and 61% for falls that produced fractures. Authors of the study write that "it is…thought that exercise prevents injurious falls not only by improving balance and decreasing the risk of falling, but also by improving cognitive functioning, and the speed and effectiveness of protective reflexes (such as quickly extending an arm or grabbing nearby objects) or the energy absorbing capacity of soft tissues (such as muscles), thereby diminishing the force of impact on the body."
APTA provides education on exercise prescriptions for balance and falls prevention, and offers resources for physical therapists on balance and falls prevention, how to develop consumer events on balance, falls and exercise, and information on evidence based falls programs. Members can also access an APTA pocket guide on falls risk reduction (.pdf) as well as take part in an online community where members can share information about falls prevention.
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