Here are a few facts about falls to start:
- 1 in 5 falls results in serious injuries such as broken bones or brain trauma
- People over the age of 65 have a 1 in 4 chance of experiencing a fall each year.
- More than 95% of hip fractures in older adults (>65yrs) is caused by a fall.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.
Now that we have seen some statistics about falls and injuries, let’s talk about how to PREVENT these from ever happening to you! Balance can be compromised by a number of different issues such as weakness in the trunk, hips, and legs, vision changes, sensory changes, vestibular dysfunction, stroke, or other injuries. Balance is technically a skill like being able to dribble and basketball or paint a picture – this means it can be improved with practice. Therefore, practicing activities that directly work on challenging balance and staying upright is essential to improving. But before you start practicing, here are a couple of quick and easy ways to assess how good your balance is, and what aspects of balance need to be worked on.
First, try standing with feet together. Once you’re stable there, close your eyes. If you can do that for 30 seconds, try turning your head side to side with your eyes closed. You might notice some wobbliness here. If it is difficult with eyes open, that is a good starting point to work on. If it is difficult with eyes closed, start there. If all those are easy, try this.
Take your right foot in front, left foot directly behind. This is called a tandem stance. See if you can stand here for 30 seconds. Then repeat as above. If stable, close your eyes for 30 seconds. If stable there, add in head turns as well! That’s where things get pretty shaky for me!!
Another good way to test balance is to see how long you can stand on one leg – if you can’t stand on one leg for at least 30 seconds, it means you should work on it!
So wherever you had trouble in these exercises, take that activity and work on it. Do it everyday for 3-4 sets of 30 seconds each. Do this next to a counter or corner of a wall for safety. Then retest this assessment in 1-2 weeks and see the improvement!
Now, there are much more assessments, activities, and aspects that relate to balance and preventing falls, but this is a great starting point for most people regardless of what level you may be at. I hope you found this useful and if you are ready to prevent falls in the future, take my Balance Class on Mondays and Thursday’s at 10 am or book a 1 on 1 session with one of our experienced Physical Therapists!
I have included a list of references if you’d like to find out more about falls, fall prevention, and why working on balance is so important!
Bergen G, Stevens MR, Burns ER. Falls and Fall Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:993–998. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6537a2
Stevens JA, Ballesteros MF, Mack KA, Rudd RA, DeCaro E, Adler G. Gender differences in seeking care for falls in the aged Medicare Population. Am J Prev Med 2012;43:59–62.
O’Loughlin J et al. Incidence of and risk factors for falls and injurious falls among the community-dwelling elderly. American journal of epidemiology, 1993, 137:342-54.
Alexander BH, Rivara FP, Wolf ME. The cost and frequency of hospitalization for fall-related injuries in older adults. American Journal of Public Health 1992;82(7):1020–3.
Sterling DA, O’Connor JA, Bonadies J. Geriatric falls: injury severity is high and disproportionate to mechanism. Journal of Trauma-Injury, Infection and Critical Care 2001;50(1):116–9
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web–based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. Accessed August 5, 2016.
Parkkari J, Kannus P, Palvanen M, Natri A, Vainio J, Aho H, Vuori I, Järvinen M. Majority of hip fractures occur as a result of a fall and impact on the greater trochanter of the femur: a prospective controlled hip fracture study with 206 consecutive patients. Calcif Tissue Int, 1999;65:183–7.
Jager TE, Weiss HB, Coben JH, Pepe PE. Traumatic brain injuries evaluated in U.S. emergency departments, 1992–1994. Academic Emergency Medicine 2000&359;7(2):134–40.