One small step for Gran, one giant leap for falls prevention

20 Sep 2017

Wearable motion sensors based on technology used by NASA and for film industry special effects are being trialled by the NHS to help lower the risk of falls in older people.

Two trials are underway both involving participants – who are at moderate risk of a fall but have not yet fallen - wearing special motion sensor units on their legs, which analyse their movement.

This information allows health professionals and physiotherapists to prescribe a series of exercises to help improve the patient’s movement and balance, and lower their risk of falling.

Professor Tahir Masud, Consultant Physician at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said the trials were “potentially very exciting.”

“This work could help in developing programmes fit for purpose for identifying frailty and developing interventions to reduce falls risk. More work is needed however to tease out if such technology will be mainly used for research purposes only or if it could be applied for individual patients as part of their assessment”

Results of the trials are due in summer 2018, and the technology may be rolled out to more people if it proves beneficial in the prevention of falls.

Similar technology has previously been used to help athletes enhance their performance, as well as in film production to produce computer-generated characters – the motions sensors, however, were always used in a controlled laboratory environment. This new generation of motion sensors are the first that can be used to track movement outside of a laboratory, meaning people can wear them in their own homes and going about their daily routines.

More information about safe exercise and osteoporosis, including how to improve balance and flexibility, can be found in our Exercise and Osteoporosis leaflet.

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