Background: People with Parkinson's disease are twice as likely to be recurrent fallers compared to other older people. As these falls have devastating consequences, there is an urgent need to identify and test innovative interventions with the potential to reduce falls in people with Parkinson's disease. The main objective of this randomised controlled trial is to determine whether fall rates can be reduced in people with Parkinson's disease using exercise targeting three potentially remediable risk factors for falls (reduced balance, reduced leg muscle strength and freezing of gait). In addition we will establish the cost effectiveness of the exercise program from the health provider's perspective.
Methods/design: 230 community-dwelling participants with idiopathic Parkinson's disease will be recruited. Eligible participants will also have a history of falls or be identified as being at risk of falls on assessment. Participants will be randomly allocated to a usual-care control group or an intervention group which will undertake weight-bearing balance and strengthening exercises and use cueing strategies to address freezing of gait. The intervention group will choose between the home-based or support group-based mode of the program. Participants in both groups will receive standardized falls prevention advice. The primary outcome measure will be fall rates. Participants will record falls and medical interventions in a diary for the duration of the 6-month intervention period. Secondary measures include the Parkinson's Disease Falls Risk Score, maximal leg muscle strength, standing balance, the Short Physical Performance Battery, freezing of gait, health and well being, habitual physical activity and positive and negative affect schedule.
Discussion: No adequately powered studies have investigated exercise interventions aimed at reducing falls in people with Parkinson's disease. This trial will determine the effectiveness of the exercise intervention in reducing falls and its cost effectiveness. This pragmatic program, if found to be effective, has the potential to be implemented within existing community services.
Trial registration: The protocol for this study is registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12608000303347).