Background: While gait assessments are recommended to evaluate fall risk in older adults, these often involve walking in a straight line, even though one-third of steps taken throughout the day involve turning. Falls that occur during a turn tend to be more serious than falls that occur during a straight walk, but little is known about how gait variables collected during a turn can predict falls. Research question: How do gait characteristics collected from straight and turning walking phases predict falls in older adults? Methods: We prospectively examined the association between six quantitative gait variables measured during normal walking turn and straight walking phases as predictors of incident falls in a community-based sample of older adults (N = 253; mean age 78.5; 51% women). Cox regressions adjusted for multiple potential confounders were used to examine the associations. Results: Participants had significantly slower stride velocity (57.81 vs 83.26 cm/s), shorter stride length (74.76 vs 101.81 cm,), lower swing (30.1 vs 32.41%), higher double support (39.79 vs 35.19%), and more swing (30.09 vs 32.41%) and stride length variability (31.86 vs 6.35 %) during turns compared with straights. Higher swing percent in both turns (adjusted hazard ratio; HR 0.92, 95% CI 0.87, 0.97) and straights (HR 0.89, 95% CI 0.84, 0.96) was associated with reduced risk of falls. Higher double support percent during both turns (HR 1.04, 95% CI 1.01, 1.07) and straights (HR 1.06, 95% CI 1.02, 1.09) was associated with increased risk of falls. More swing variability during turns (HR 1.03, 95% CI 1.00, 1.06), but not straights, was associated with increased risk of falls. Significance: Gait variables collected during turning and walking straight were similar in their predictions of future falls. In the future, clinical research that builds on these findings could improve identification and prevention of falls.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine