Study leader Graham Kerr of Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, cautions falls are a major problem for people with Parkinson's disease and can lead to injuries and reduced mobility, which can result in increasing weakness, loss of independence and increased use of nursing homes.
The study, published in Neurology, finds the best predictors of whether a person was likely to fall included a test of overall Parkinson's symptoms, a questionnaire on how often people tended to "freeze" while walking and a test of balance. When these tests were combined, the results produced a sensitivity of 78 percent and a specificity of 84 percent for predicting falls.
"These tests are easy to implement and take only a short time to complete," Kerr said in a statement. "Once we can identify those at risk of falling, we can take steps to try to prevent these falls."
Kerr and colleagues tested 101 people with Parkinson's disease who were able to walk without any aids to evaluate their Parkinson's symptoms, balance and mobility. The participants then reported any falls that occurred over a six-month period.