Clive Pai, PhD, MPT, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is developing a computerized treadmill program that can be used by physical therapy professionals to prevent falls and fall-related injuries in older adults. Pai was awarded a 5 year, $1 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to develop the program. The professor, who has been studying falls for more than 20 years, believes people can be trained relatively quickly and easily how not to fall.

In a study, Pai enlisted adults ages 65 years to almost 90 years who live independently. The subjects were never told when or how they might fall, and they used a special walkway in Pai’s lab while strapped into a safety harness. According to a news report from The Suncoast News, the footing surface for the patients then slid out from under them. Pai explains, “For the first time, the second time, and maybe the third time, they experienced falling. And then, all of sudden, they stopped falling. They were so quick to adapt.”

In addition to the adapting of the participants, Pai also discovered that his subjects retained what they had learned for as long as 12 months. The Suncoast News report notes that not only were the subjects less likely to fall when they returned to the lab 6 months to a year later, but they were 50% less likely to fall in their daily lives in the year after training than in the year before.

Pai’s team discovered that the tests and training could be safe for people with reduced bone density and hopes it will also prove safe for those with osteoporosis, which is the group most at risk for a poor outcome following a fall.

The Suncoast News report indicates that Pai would like to see the day when yearly preventative care for older adults would include a half hour on a treadmill, strapped into a safety harness, learning to not fall. Pai says, “We want to inoculate people against falls.”

Photo Appears Courtesy of The Suncoast News

[Source: The Suncoast News]