Background and purpose: Simple, practical and reliable clinical balance outcome measures are needed to assess baseline status and response to treatment in older people. The reliability of the clinical measures used in this testing protocol had not been determined for this population. This study assessed the inter-rater reliability of three commonly used clinical measures of balance: one leg standing, tandem gait and functional reach.
Method: Two samples of older people were used: (1) non-disabled and (2) disabled community dwellers. All testing was performed in a single session by two trained examiners according to a standardized protocol. Intra-class correlations were calculated comparing the means of each clinical balance test for Examiner 1 with Examiner 2.
Results: Reliability coefficients were 0.75 for one leg standing, 0.73 for functional reach, and 0.31 for tandem gait for the non-disabled sample. Reliability coefficients were 0.85 for one leg standing, 0.79 for functional reach, and 0.62 for tandem gait for the disabled sample.
Conclusions: These findings for the one leg standing and functional reach testing protocols in disabled and non-disabled older people can be used as outcome measures. Further study should be directed towards improving the reliability of the tandem gait test for use with older people.