New York, NY (September 13, 2016) – The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports alarming statistics about Americans’ golden years: falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older people. In 2010, for example, 2.3 million fall injuries sent older folks to emergency rooms, and a whopping 662,000 of those patients required hospitalization. The monetary impact is almost as frightening; falls in 2010 cost $30 billion in direct medical costs, the CDC says. The result of this trend has been an increased medical focus on fall prevention, and the American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry (ABMSP) notes that podiatrists have recently shouldered an important responsibility in helping patients avoid fall-related injuries.
“Falling is a risk for everyone, but the risk goes up as we age, and the result is that falls can be—and in fact usually are—very serious. Falls are one of the most common reasons why older people lose their independence,” said Earl R. Horowitz, D.P.M., President and Diplomate of the ABMSP. “The work that ABMSP podiatrists are doing in the field of fall prevention is quite remarkable,” he continued. “These podiatrists are at the leading edge of exciting treatments that will have real impact in improving quality of life and independence by preventing falls in the elderly.”
“Fall prevention has long been overlooked,” said Kenneth B. Rehm, D.P.M., Diplomate of the ABMSP. “But we’re seeing a rapid change. It’s time that the medical community mobilize resources in this area, and I’m very proud of the work that ABMSP has taken on to advance fall prevention treatments and techniques.”
The feet, after all, are the foundation for mobility and balance, Rehm explained. To prevent falls, podiatrists assess a patients’ lower extremities in order to take a biomechanical approach to the science of fall prevention. The goal, he said, is to help patients develop their lower extremity musculature in order to hone balance. Podiatrists are leading an active discussion about new treatments, Rehm said, and in the process are adopting fall prevention as an active part of the field.
In his 2012 Podiatry Today article, “Preventing Falls in the Elderly: Where DPMs Can Have an Impact,” Douglas H. Richie, DPM, examines the growing role of podiatrists in the field of fall prevention. Richie is known for his development of an innovative ankle-foot orthosis which incorporates a balanced functional foot orthotic with an articulated leg support system. He notes the podiatrist’s unique expertise in assessing lower-extremity risk factors for falling, including toe deformity; range of motion and toe flexion strength; foot pain; and footwear. “It is important for the podiatric physician to recognize his or her role as a member of a healthcare team in treating this vital public health issue,” Richie writes. “By following sound, scientifically proven guidelines, there is significant opportunity for podiatric physicians to become key players on the fall prevention team, which will improve the quality of life of their elderly patients.”
“If you are 65+ in America, the odds are about thirty percent that you will fall this year,” Rehm cautions. “Falls are very costly in dollars and in quality of life. But falling is not inevitable. The podiatric community is helping more and more people stay on solid footing. I urge seniors to seek the care of an ABMSP-certified podiatrist and take action now to prevent falls.”
This Fall, Prevent Falls!
The National Council on Aging’s 9th annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD) will be observed on September 22, 2016—the first day of fall. The event raises awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults. The theme of this year’s event is Ready, Steady, Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016. To learn more, visit www.ncoa.org/healthy-aging.