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Comparison of Balance and Some Other Physical Characteristics Between Elderly Fallers and Nonfallers

The present paper reports a retrospective study on differences between a group of elderly fallers (F) and a group of elderly nonfallers (NF).

Gerd Wivi Helena Laxaback, University of Jyvaskyla, Chydenius-Institute; Magnus Bjorkgren, Frank Borg, Pia Vahakangas, Petra Lahtonen, University of Jyvaskyla, Chydenius-Institute, Finland

The present paper reports a retrospective study on differences between a group of elderly fallers (F) and a group of elderly nonfallers (NF). Participants (F: n = 37, age = 82.4 ± 6.1; NF: n = 58, age = 79.9 ± 7.6) were recruited from community-dwelling home-health-care clients aged 65 or older. Participants were classified as fallers (F) and nonfallers (NF) based on their fall history. Those who had not fallen during the past 12 months as nonfallers were categorized.

Static and dynamic balance tests were conducted using the balance platform, complemented with a Berg Balance Scale (BBS) test, visual gait analysis, and strength measurements. Significant (p < .05) differences between the groups were found for mediolateral sway while standing on foam (F: 9.2 ± 4.6 mm; NF 7.3 ± 1.8 mm). Significant differences were also found for weaker leg isometric extension (60° flexion), women (F: 48.6 ± 21.3 Nm; NF: 60.7 ± 21.6 Nm); BMI (F: 27.1 ± 4.9; NF: 29.6 ± 5.3); body mass (F: 67.9 ± 14.6 kg; NF: 76.9 ± 15.2 kg); fast-speed gait, women (F: 0.73 ± 0.29 m/s; NF: 0.94 ± 0.41 m/s); and for the sum of the four last items of the BBS test (F: 5.19 ± 3.48; NF: 7.51 ± 4.2). Average isometric leg-extension torque per body weight kilogram was 1.01 ± 0.06 Nm/kg (women) and 1.09 ± 0.09 Nm/kg (men), which may provide benchmark values for this age group.

It can be hypothesized that the increased lateral sway for fallers may indicate that it is more difficult to correct lateral sways, which therefore imply a greater fall risk. The smaller BMI for fallers may indicate that increased fall risk is part of the age-related frailty syndrome involving an increased vulnerability to stressors. Finally, lower BBS scores for fallers are related to problems in shifting weight between the legs. There were significant negative correlations between lateral sway (foam) and BBS score (F: -.44; NF: -.48). An important risk factor was also related to hypotension syncope. These findings suggest an abridged fall-risk test battery and prevention training program.

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