media release

Seniors in care at high risk for head injuries

October 07, 2013
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Contact:
Stephen Robinovitch, 604.808.5604 cell (off campus today, call or text); stever@sfu.ca
Rebecca Schonnop, Rebecca.schonnop@gmail.com
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.9017; Marianne_Meadahl@sfu.ca

Photo: http://at.sfu.ca/ZFDEDJ
File video (2012): http://at.sfu.ca/HYqhWX

Website (abstract and link to full paper): www.cmaj.ca

A study by Simon Fraser University researchers has found seniors in long-term care facilities are at high risk of head injuries – nearly 40 per cent of those who fall experience head impact.

The researchers studied video footage of 227 falls among 133 residents at a pair of local long-term care facilities over the past three years. They found 37 per cent of falling residents struck their heads upon falling, hitting the ground – most often vinyl or linoleum floors – more than 60 per cent of the time. The researchers conclude: “By any measure, this is an alarmingly high prevalence.”

More should be done, they suggest, to design safer environments, improve procedures to detect possible brain injuries among those who fall, and promote strengthening upper limb exercises.

The study results are published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Stephen Robinovitch, a professor of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology (BPK) at SFU, carried out the research with co-authors and graduate students Rebecca Schonnop, now a medical student at UBC, and BPK PhD student Yijian Yang.

Robinovitch, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Injury Prevention and Mobility Biomechanics, says other recent studies have been documenting a rapid increase in falls among seniors, particularly those over 80 years of age.

"It's a rising trend that is poorly understood," says Robinovitch, noting that falls are the number-one cause of injury and among the top-10 causes of deaths of older adults in Canada.

The team’s earlier research tracked the activity of seniors prior to their falls looking to determine how those who fell lost their balance. The study was published in Oct. 2012 in The Lancet. Their assessment was drawn from video collected from a network of more than 200 cameras situated in a pair of local care homes.

SFU’s fall-related research aims to improve fall prevention strategies, from the design of assistive devices, including wheelchairs or walkers, to planning of care facilities.

Robinovitch oversees SFU’s Injury Prevention and Mobility Lab, where testing continues on wearable fall sensors and advanced protective gear, such as hip protectors. Testing is also being done on compliant flooring, which he says could lead to building code changes for safer environments.

Robinovitch’s team heads up TIPS (Technology for Injury Prevention in Seniors), a Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) funded program that brings together experts on aging and mobility research to utilize and develop new technologies.

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.

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Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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