Perceptions of fall circumstances, injuries and recovery techniques among power wheelchair users: a qualitative study

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Abstract

Objective:

To understand the circumstances surrounding the worst fall experienced by power wheelchair users in the past year and to examine injuries sustained and recovery methods.

Design:

A qualitative study using a semi-structured interview.

Setting:

Community.

Participants:

A self-selected volunteer sample of 19 power wheelchair users who utilize their device for at least 75% of mobility. The most common disability represented was cerebral palsy (n = 8). The mean (SD) age of participants was 41.9 (7.6) years, who lived with their disability for a mean (SD) of 20.5 (8.62) years and used their current device for a mean (SD) of 3.9 (1.9) years.

Intervention:

None.

Main outcome measures:

A semi-structured interview examined the circumstances surrounding the worst fall experienced in the past year, injuries sustained and recovery techniques used.

Results:

Upon examination of the circumstances of the worst fall, four main themes emerged: (1) action-related fall contributors, (2) location of falls, (3) fall attributions and (4) time of fall. Each fall described was found to involve multiple factors. As a result of the fall, participants also reported the occurrence of physical injuries and a fear of falling. Physical injuries ranged from skin abrasion and bruises to fractures and head injuries. Participants also reported that fear of falling diminished their desire to participation in activities they enjoyed doing. Finally, most participants reported the need for physical assistance to recover from a fall.

Conclusion:

Participant descriptions provide an in-depth description of the circumstances and aftermath of falls experienced by power wheelchair users.

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