Dr Kim Delbaere, Profs Steve Lord and Jacqueline Close

Falls, Balance and Injury

RESEARCH CENTRE

FALLS, BALANCE AND INJURY RESEARCH CENTRE

The Falls, Balance and Injury Research Centre (FBIRC), directed by Professor Stephen Lord, conducts research into understanding human balance, fall risk factors and strategies for prevention of falls in older people.

Falls are a major contributor to the burden of disease in older people and a major public health problem and clinical groups with balance disorders. Maintaining balance involves highly complex processing of peripheral sensory information and precise coordination of motor responses. Falls result from the complex interplay between impairments in these physiological functions, pathological ageing and the environments we negotiate on a daily basis. There can be myriad contributing factors, including drugs affecting cognitive function, deconditioning due to inactivity; disease processes such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke; and syndromes such as dementia and delirium.

One of the most serious consequences of a fall is a hip fracture. There are approximately 20,000 hip fractures in Australia every year. A hip fracture is a devastating injury for an older person and for many results in pain and lasting disability which directly impacts on the ability to live independently. For some a hip fracture can result in a move to residential care or death.

Preventing falls and effectively managing fall related injury is a key research and health priority. The Falls, Balance and Injury Research Centre (FBIRC) was established in 2014 and brings together complimentary research of three senior research groups at NeuRA led by Professor Stephen Lord, Professor Jacqueline Close and Dr Kim Delbaere addressing fall and fall injury prevention and management.

The overarching aims of the FBIRC involve:

(i) the accurate documentation of falls and fall injuries

(ii) the identification of fall risk factors

(iii) the development of feasible fall prevention strategies and iv) the effective management of people with a fall related injury.

Our falls and injury epidemiology research uses multiple health service databases to examine predisposing factors for injurious falls and changes in patterns of fall injury over time. Our fall risk studies aim to enhance our understanding of human balance and involve investigations of sensory and motor contributions, behavioural factors as well as the contribution of disease processes to falls. Our fall prevention research incorporates components from physiotherapy, exercise physiology, psychology, brain imaging and computer software engineering. These studies comprise:

(i) large randomised controlled trials in people at increased risk of falls (i.e. those with dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis),

(ii) projects exploring technology-based solutions to prevent falls in older people, and

(iii) projects examining interrelationships among physical, psychological and cognitive factors in older people.

Our effective management of people with a fall related injury focuses predominantly on hip fracture care and includes work on how to best implement effective care in hospitals across Australia.

Specific projects are outlined in the NeuRA Group Leader pages of the Senior Researchers.

Staff

Professor Stephen Lord

Professor Jacqueline Close

Dr Kim Delbaere

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