Perturbation-based balance training to improve balance control and reduce falls in older adults - study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

M.H.G. Gerards*, R.G.J. Marcellis, M. Poeze, A.F. Lenssen, K. Meijer, R.A. de Bie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BackgroundFalls are a common cause of injuries and hospitalization among older adults. While conventional balance training appears effective in preventing falls, a relatively large number of training sessions are needed and retention of the effects after the training period is hard to accomplish. This may be because these interventions are not sufficiently task-specific for the mechanism of falls. Many falls in older adults occur due to unexpected external perturbations during gait, such as trips. Therefore, there is increasing interest in perturbation-based balance training (PBT), which is a more task-specific intervention to improve reactive balance control after unexpected perturbations. The literature suggests that PBT may be more effective and require fewer training sessions to reduce falls incidence in older adults, than conventional balance training. We aim to evaluate the effect of a three-session PBT protocol on balance control, daily life falls and fear of falling. Secondly, we will evaluate the acceptability of the PBT protocol.MethodsThis is a mixed-methods study combining a single-blind (outcome assessor) randomized controlled trial (RCT) using a parallel-group design, and qualitative research evaluating the acceptability of the intervention. The study sample consists of community-dwelling older adults aged 65years and older who have recently fallen and visited the MUMC+ outpatient clinic. Subjects are randomized into two groups. The control group (n =40) receives usual care, meaning referral to a physical therapist. The intervention group (n =40) receives usual care plus three 30-min sessions of PBT in the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment. Subjects' balance control (Mini-BESTest) and fear of falling (FES-I) will be assessed at baseline, and 4weeks and 3months post-baseline. Daily life falls will be recorded with falls calendars until 6months after the first follow-up measurement, long-term injurious falls will be recorded at 2-years' follow-up via the electronic patient record. Acceptability of the PBT protocol will be evaluated with semi-structured interviews in a subsample from the intervention group.DiscussionThis study will contribute to the evidence for the effectiveness of PBT using a training protocol based on the available literature, and also give much needed insights into the acceptability of PBT for older adults.Trial registrationNederlands Trial Register NL7680. Registered 17-04-2019 - retrospectively registered.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2021


  • Accidental falls
  • Aged
  • Balance
  • Older adults
  • Perturbation
  • Prevention
  • accidental falls
  • aged
  • balance
  • older adults
  • perturbation
  • prevention


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