Prospective fallers experienced more fear of falling and more fear-of-falling-related activity avoidance at baseline than non-fallers. In addition, prospective fallers walked slower and with smaller steps, and had a poorer performance on clinical gait and balance tests.
As anticipated, prospective fallers also performed worse on various walking-adaptability tasks. In addition to fall history, obstacle-avoidance success rate and normalized walking speed during goal directed stepping were identified as predictor variables for falls and these fall-risk factors improved the identification of fallers. It appears that subjects who performed worse on the obstacle-avoidance task without substantially lowering their walking speed during goal-directed stepping are most at risk of falling.
Identification of these task-specific fall-risk factors may lead to more targeted, personalised and, possibly, more effective falls prevention programmes. If validated in larger samples in future studies these measures hold promise as future entry tests for falls prevention programmes.