Objective: To test the hypothesis that one-leg balance is a significant predictor of falls and injurious falls.
Design: Analysis of data from a longitudinal cohort study.
Subjects: Healthy, community-living volunteers older than age 60 enrolled in the Albuquerque Falls Study and followed for 3 years (N = 316; mean age 73 years).
Main outcome measures: Falls and injurious falls detected via reports every other month.
Independent variables: Baseline measures of demographics, history, physical examination, Iowa Self Assessment Inventory, balance and gait assessment, and one-leg balance (ability to stand unassisted for 5 seconds on one leg).
Results: At baseline, 84.5% of subjects could perform one-leg balance. (Impairment was associated with older age and gait abnormalities.) Over the 3-year follow-up, 71% experienced a fall and 22% an injurious fall. The only independent significant predictor of all falls using logistic regression was age greater than 73. However, impaired one-leg balance was the only significant independent predictor of injurious falls (relative risk: 2.13; 95% CI: 1.04, 4.34; P = .03).
Conclusion: One-leg balance appears to be a significant and easy-to-administer predictor of injurious falls, but not of all falls. In our study, it was the strongest individual predictor. However, no single factor seems to be accurate enough to be relied on as a sole predictor of fall risk or fall injury risk because so many diverse factors are involved in falling.