Objective: To contribute to the reliability and validity of a series of functional balance tests for use post stroke.
Design: Within-session, test-retest and intertester reliability was tested using the kappa coefficient and intraclass correlations. The tests were performed three times and the first and third attempts compared to test the within-session reliability. The tests were repeated a few days later to assess test-retest reliability and were scored simultaneously by two physiotherapists to assess the intertester reliability. To test criterion-related validity the tests were compared with the sitting section of the Motor Assessment Scale, Berg Balance Scale and Rivermead Mobility Index using Spearman's rho.
Setting: Stroke physiotherapy services of six National Health Service hospitals.
Participants: People with a post stroke hemiplegia attending physiotherapy who had no other pathology affecting their balance took part. Thirty-five people participated in the reliability testing and 48 people took part in the validity testing.
Main outcome measures: The following functional balance tests were used: supported sitting balance, sitting arm raise, sitting forward reach, supported standing balance, standing arm raise, standing forward reach, static tandem standing, weight shift, timed 5-m walk with and without an aid, tap and step-up tests.
Results: The ordinal level tests (supported sitting and standing balance and static tandem standing tests) showed 100% agreement in all aspects of reliability. Intraclass correlations for the other tests ranged from 0.93 to 0.99. All the tests showed significant correlations with the appropriate comparator tests (r = 0.32-0.74 p < 0.05), except the weight shift test and step-up tests which did not form significant relationship with Berg Balance Scale (r = 0.26 and 0.19 respectively).
Conclusion: These functional balance tests are reliable and valid measures of balance disability post stroke.