Design and evaluation of an evidence-based exercise program to enhance protective responses for avoiding fall-related traumatic brain injury in older adults

Falls cause up to 80% of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in older adults. Any fall from standing may cause TBI if head impact occurs. Humans use movement strategies to avoid head impact during falls, such as 'arresting' the fall with the arms. Through video capture of real-life falls, we found that these strategies persist but become less effective for older adults in long-term care, with over 1/3 of falls resulting in head impact in this setting. This project continues our work with Debbie Cheong (Osteofit Provincial Coordinator at BC Women's Health Centre) to design and evaluate novel exercise programs for enhancing protective responses for avoiding head impact in falls. We will identify the strength and flexibility demands of common safe landing strategies observed in falls in older adults, and design and evaluate feasible approaches to enhance those capacities for older adults of varying physical and cognitive status.

This project will lead to new evidence on the strategies that older adults use to avoid head impact during falls, and the musculoskeletal demands of those strategies; new exercise-based approaches for targeting and enhancing the effectiveness of fall protective responses in older adults; and evidence of the feasibility and effectiveness of our exercise program for older adults.