In a world-first study, Victoria University researchers are investigating what happens to the body when an older person with osteoarthritis of the knees stumbles or falls.
Calum Downie of the Gait, Balance and Falls Research Group at Victoria University, is looking for 100 Melburnians to participate in this research. They need to be aged between 60 and 90 years and have had knee pain for six months or more.
“The idea is to identify the common factors in knee osteoarthritis sufferers who fall frequently. We can then work on preventions when we know what the reasons are,” says Mr Downie.
This is a global health issue particularly pertinent to an ageing population. Previous studies show that 33 per cent of people over the age of 65 fall at least once a year. If osteoarthritis is present in one or both knees, then the figure rises to 50 per cent. Falls are often the precursor to reduced mobility, a loss of independence and deterioration in general health.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease occurring when the cartilage between the joints breaks down leading to stiffness, swelling and pain. By the age of 65, most people show some signs of the disease. More than 687,000 Australians suffer from osteoarthritis and knees are the most commonly affected joints.
Participants will undergo a series of tests at Victoria University, keep a calendar of falls, and then repeat the tests at the end of 12 months.
The study will investigate whether biomechanical, physiological and cognitive factors can be used to predict the risk of falls and how such factors as pain, distraction and poor cognitive function influence balance recovery.