Fall-Related Injuries in a Cohort of Community-Dwelling Older Adults Attending Peer-Led Fall Prevention Exercise Classes

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Abstract

Background and Purpose:

To investigate reported injuries and circumstances and to estimate the costs related to falls experienced by older adults participating in Steady As You Go (SAYGO) peer-led fall prevention exercise classes.

Methods:

A 12-month prospective cohort study of 207 participants attending community-based SAYGO classes in Dunedin, New Zealand. Types and costs of medical treatment for injuries and circumstances of falls were obtained via standardized fall event questionnaires and phone-administered questionnaires.

Results:

Eighty-four percent completed the study (160 females, 14 males, mean age = 77.5 [standard deviation = 6.5] years). More than a third of the total falls (55/148 total falls, 37%) did not result in any injuries. Most injuries (45%, n = 67) were sprains, grazes, and bruises. Medical attention was sought 26 times (18%), out of which 6 participants (4%) reported fractures (none femoral). The majority of falls occurred while walking. More falls and injuries occurred outdoors (n = 55). The number of times medical treatment was sought correlated with the number of falls in the previous year (r = 0.50, P = .02). The total number of years attending SAYGO was a significant predictor of lower total number of injuries (stepwise regression β = −0.157, t = −1.99, P = .048). The total cost of medical treatment across all reported injurious falls was estimated at NZ$6946 (US$5415).

Discussion:

Older adults participating in SAYGO appear to sustain less severe injuries following a fall than previously reported. More falls and injuries occurred outdoors, suggesting better overall health of these participants. The role of long-term participation in fall prevention exercise classes on injurious falls warrants further investigation.

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