Perturbation-based balance training targeting both slip- and trip-induced falls among older adults: a randomized controlled trial


Background Falls are the leading cause of injuries among older adults. Perturbation-based balance training (PBT) is an innovative approach to fall prevention that aims to improve the reactive balance response following perturbations such as slipping and tripping. Many of these PBT studies have targeted reactive balance after slipping or tripping, despite both contributing to a large proportion of older adult falls. The goal of this randomized controlled trial was to evaluate the effects of PBT targeting slipping and tripping on laboratory-induced slips and trips. To build upon prior work, the present study included: 1) a control group; 2) separate training and assessment sessions; 3) PBT methods potentially more amenable for use outside the lab compared to methods employed elsewhere, and 4) individualized training for older adult participants.

Methods Thirty-four community-dwelling, healthy older adults (61–75 years) were assigned to PBT or a control intervention using minimization. Using a parallel design, reactive balance (primary outcome) and fall incidence were assessed before and after four sessions of BRT or a control intervention involving general balance exercises. Assessments involved exposing participants to an unexpected laboratory-induced slip or trip. Reactive balance and fall incidence were compared between three mutually-exclusive groups: 1) baseline participants who experienced a slip (or trip) before either intervention, 2) post-control participants who experienced a slip (or trip) after the control intervention, and 3) post-PBT participants who experienced a slip (or trip) after PBT. Neither the participants nor investigators were blinded to group assignment.

Results All 34 participants completed all four sessions of their assigned intervention, and all 34 participants were analyzed. Regarding slips, several measures of reactive balance were improved among post-PBT participants when compared to baseline participants or post-control participants, and fall incidence among post-PBT participants (18%) was lower than among baseline participants (80%). Regarding trips, neither reactive balance nor fall incidence differed between groups

Conclusions PBT targeting slipping and tripping improved reactive balance and fall incidence after laboratory-induced slips. Improvements were not observed after laboratory-induced trips. The disparity in efficacy between slips and trip may have resulted from differences in dosage and specificity between slip and trip training.

Trial registration Name of Clinical Trial Registry: Trial Registration number: NCT04308239. Date of Registration: March 13, 2020 (retrospectively registered).

BMC Geriatrics. 2020 Jun 12;20(1):205