1. Briggs, Robert A. PT, PhD


Background: Several known demographic and functional characteristics combine to predict physical function after hip fracture. Long-term weight-bearing asymmetries, evident during functional movements after hip fracture, contribute to limited mobility and large asymmetries in muscle function are linked to a high rate of injurious falls. Although postfracture mobility is commonly measured as whole body movement, a force-plate imbedded chair can identify individual limb contributions to an important task like moving from a sitting to standing position. The modified Physical Performance Test (mPPT) and stair climb test (SCT) are reliable, valid measures of function that predict independence after hip fracture. The purpose of this study was to determine to what extent asymmetry during a sit-to-stand task (STST) predicts function (mPPT, 12-step SCT), above and beyond other known predictors.


Methods: Thirty-one independent community-dwelling older adults, recently discharged from usual care physical therapy (mean [standard deviation], 77.7 [10.5] years, 10 male), within 2 to 8 months postfracture, volunteered for this study. Participants performed an STST on a force-plate-imbedded chair designed to identify individual limb contributions during an STST. Asymmetry magnitude during the STST was determined for each individual. In addition, mPPT and SCT were assessed and regression analyses were performed to determine the contribution of asymmetry to the variance in these physical function scores beyond other factors predicting function.


Results: Demographic factors (sex, time since fracture, repair type, and body mass index) were not significantly related to function in this sample. Age, gait speed, knee extension strength, balance confidence, and functional self-report were each significantly related to both mPPT (r = 0.43-0.86) and SCT (r = 0.40-0.83), and were retained in the regression model. Included variables accounted for 83.4% of the variance in mPPT score, and asymmetry during the STST did not significantly contribute to explaining variability in mPPT (P = .23). Variables in the regression model accounted for 78.0% of the variance in SCT score, and STST asymmetry explained 7.1% (P < .005) of the variance in SCT score.


Discussion: In this small sample, asymmetry contributed significantly to explaining the variability in SCT performance, but not mPPT score. The SCT requires greater unilateral strength and control than the battery of items that comprise the mPPT. This contributes to the disproportionate number of falls occurring during stair ambulation (>10% of all fall-related deaths), relative to the minimal time typically involved in stair negotiation. Our results indicate potential benefit to identifying injured limb asymmetries as they predict function in challenging, high-risk functional tasks after hip fracture.


Conclusion: Although gait speed is the best explanator of physical function in older adults after hip fracture, lower extremity asymmetry during an STST provides a unique contribution to explaining high-level ambulatory performance after hip fracture. Efforts to reduce weight-bearing asymmetry during rehabilitation following hip fracture may improve function and recovery.