As a physical therapist I frequently have patients come into our office with injuries sustained as a result of a fall. These falls are often secondary to poor balance and weakness and there are some neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) that can increase a person’s risk of falls. It is unfortunate that a person has to endure pain, difficult lifestyle changes, and a long rehabilitation process because of their injuries. But what if their injuries could have been prevented?
In 2015 The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released some alarming statistics regarding falls: One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury. Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries. Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture. Each year at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
There is a common misconception in the general population that you only go to physical therapy for rehabilitation after you have had an injury or surgery. However, fall risk assessment, balance, and safe gait training are an integral part of the job. There are a few valuable fall risk assessment tools that can be used to determine if a person falls into a low, medium, or high risk of fall category. These include, but are not limited, to The Berg Balance Scale, The Tinetti Balance and Gait Assessment, The Timed Up and Go (TUG) Test, The 6 Meter Walk Test, and The 30 Second Chair Stand Test.
After a thorough assessment by a physical therapist, a specific and individualized treatment plan can be established for each patient to address their impairments that may contribute to a higher risk of falling. These can include, but are not limited to, lower extremity strengthening exercises, balance activities, gait training, assistive device training, and advice on home safety modifications. If you or a family member is someone who may be at a higher fall risk, a thorough assessment could potentially prevent a more serious injury.
Peter Geloso DPT received his doctorate degree in physical therapy from Elon University in North Carolina. He is a competitive racing cyclist and a clinician with Amity Physical Therapy in Woodbridge, CT. The practice was founded by Michael Dow MSPT and CEO/Director 13 years ago. Amity PT maintains three offices: Woodbridge, Hamden and Branford. Peter Geloso DPT can be reached at (203) 389-4593 amitypt.com.