Falls prevention in osteoarthritis care

A/Prof Ilana Ackerman1, Dr Sze-Ee Soh1, A/Prof Anna Barker1,2

1Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, 2Medibank Private Limited, Australia


To investigate physiotherapists’ knowledge, beliefs and current practice around falls prevention in osteoarthritis (OA) care.

Currently registered, practising Australian physiotherapists who care for people with hip or knee OA were invited to participate in this national cross-sectional study.  Data on falls prevention training, beliefs, and practices were collected via an online survey and analysed descriptively.

Complete responses were received from 370 eligible physiotherapists across all Australian states.  Participants worked in public hospital, private practice, private hospital, community health and aged care settings and most had practiced for ≥6 years (69%).  Only a small proportion had not received training or accessed resources relating to falls risk screening (18%) or prevention interventions (16%).  Although most participants (77%) perceived falls risk was higher among people with OA than for the general older population, physiotherapists reported only moderate confidence in assessing falls risk (median score 7, interquartile range (IQR) 6-8; scale 0 (not at all confident) – 10 (extremely confident)) and delivering falls prevention care (median 7, IQR 6-8). While most participants asked about falls history (88%), only 39% used falls risk screening tools and of these, relatively few used an appropriate tool.  Few physiotherapists used purposed-designed tests to assess standing balance (18%), which was commonly considered within overall functional assessments (75%) or not assessed at all (7%).

Significance of the findings to allied health:
These data reveal clear opportunities for improving physiotherapist confidence and skills to facilitate best-practice falls prevention within OA care.


Ilana Ackerman is an Associate Professor (Research) in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University. She is a musculoskeletal epidemiologist and an experienced orthopaedic physiotherapist with 20 years of clinical practice. Her impressive continuum of clinical and population-based studies has systematically documented the substantial personal and societal impact of osteoarthritis among older and younger individuals.  Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours) and a Doctor of Philosophy, both from The University of Melbourne.  Ilana is a highly productive researcher, with 9 publications to date in 2018 and an average 17 publications per year (full-time equivalent) for 2016-2017.   She has 61 publications (29 as first author), including 9 co-authored Lancet papers, 3 invited papers, 2 editorials and a book chapter in the Oxford Textbook of Osteoarthritis.  Ilana has been awarded over $2.7 million in research funding from government, philanthropic organisations and industry, including an early career researcher fellowship for 2008-2015 and a mid-career researcher fellowship for 2018-2021.  She is also a weekend physiotherapist at a private rehabilitation hospital, where she predominantly provides care for people following joint replacement surgery.