JBJS Editor’s Choice: The Harder They Fall

Balance_7_20_16.gifIn the July 20, 2016 issue of The Journal, Louer et al. detail the association between distal radial fractures and poor balance. We have long understood that inherently poor balance was a major contributor to fall risk, and now we have more hard evidence thanks to this research team.

In this case-control evaluation comparing 23 patients ≥65 years of age who had sustained a low-energy distal radial fracture with 23 age- and sex-matched control patients, the authors found that those in the fracture cohort:

  • Demonstrated poorer balance based on dynamic motion analysis (DMA) scores
  • Were able to perform the balance test for significantly less time
  • Rated themselves as having worse mobility

Among both cohorts, only 3 patients had completed an evaluation of or treatment for balance deficiencies.

The orthopaedic community has begun to pay attention to fragility fracture risk reduction through programs such as the AOA’s “Own the Bone” initiative, which focuses on identifying patients with fragility fracture and applying evidence-based treatment and prevention guidelines. Fragility fracture programs led by nurse practitioners or physician assistants have gained traction in many centers and have been proven effective in identifying at-risk patients and providing appropriate follow-up care.

Any intervention for patients presenting with the first fragility fracture must include assessing fall risk. Home evaluations addressing hazards such as loose carpets, poor lighting, and poorly designed stairway transitions are critical. We also know that activities such as tai chi, low-impact aerobics, and yoga, when regularly practiced, can help preserve balance. Now, developing programs that actually improve postural balance must be part of our collective research agenda as we attempt to address the major public health issue of fall-related fragility fractures.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

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