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  1. Anderson, Monica L. PT, DPT


Background and Purpose: Knee osteoarthritis (KOA) is a common disease that hinders activity participation in older adults. Associated symptoms and physiological changes can increase risk of falling in individuals with KOA. Balance training can decrease fall risks in older adults. Limited evidence exists regarding utilization of balance training in physical therapy (PT) for this population. This secondary data analysis investigated the proportion of participants at high risk for falling in the PhysicAl THerapy vs. INternet-based Exercise Training for Patients with Osteoarthritis (PATH-IN) study and the frequency with which balance training was utilized as an intervention in PT.


Methods: PATH-IN study participants (N = 344) performed the Four-Stage Balance Test and the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test during baseline assessment. Participants were randomly allocated to PT, an Internet-based exercise program, or a control group. Participants were classified as being at high risk for falling if they did not progress to the single-leg stance (SLS) during the Four-Stage Balance Test, were unable to maintain SLS for 5 seconds, or took longer than 13.5 seconds to complete the TUG test. The proportion of participants at high risk for falling was calculated for all participants and separately for those allocated to PT. In addition, PT notes were coded for balance training and the frequency of balance training utilization was calculated.


Results and Discussion: Upon enrollment, 35.5% (N = 122) of all participants and 36.2% (N = 50) of those allocated to PT were at high risk for falling. Of participants allocated to PT with documentation available for coding (N = 118), 35.5% (N = 42) were at high risk for falling. Balance training was provided to 62.7% (N = 74) during at least one PT session. Of those classified as being at high risk for falling, 33.3% (N = 14) did not receive balance training.


Conclusions: The finding of high fall risks in more than one-third of all participants with KOA is consistent with previous reports of a higher risk of falling in this population. Many PT participants did receive some balance training; however, one-third of participants at high risk for falling did not. Balance training for individuals with KOA at high risk for falling may be underutilized.