Falls are common, detrimental events among ambulatory individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI). Following SCI, changes to lower limb function are probable and likely to impact an individual’s fall risk, yet no comprehensive review has been completed on the topic.
This study systematically reviewed data on the relationship between lower limb function and fall prevalence in ambulatory individuals with SCI.
A literature search was conducted in PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, and CINAHL. Two independent reviewers screened abstracts/titles and then full articles. Study details, participants’ characteristics, lower limb function assessed, and fall-related data were extracted from the studies. A qualitative analysis of the relationship between lower limb function and fall prevalence was performed. The risk of bias was evaluated using the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale.
The search yielded 1553 articles. Eight prospective, two retrospective, and three cross-sectional studies met the eligibility criteria. These studies ranged from low to high risk of bias. Overall, the qualitative analysis provided little evidence to support the relationship between lower limb function recorded by clinical measures and fall prevalence.
This review highlights the inconsistent relationship between lower limb function and falls prevalence in ambulatory adults with SCI. Greater uniformity in methodology and consistent categorization of fallers and nonfallers among researchers is necessary to move the field forward. Investigating additional factors such as behavior traits, assistive device use, and environmental risk factors may be appropriate in understanding fall prevalence in this population.