Objective To determine whether, and to what extent, fall prevention exercise interventions for older community dwelling people are effective in preventing different types of fall related injuries.
Data sources Electronic databases (PubMed, the Cochrane Library, Embase, and CINAHL) and reference lists of included studies and relevant reviews from inception to July 2013.
Study selection Randomised controlled trials of fall prevention exercise interventions, targeting older (>60 years) community dwelling people and providing quantitative data on injurious falls, serious falls, or fall related fractures.
Data synthesis Based on a systematic review of the case definitions used in the selected studies, we grouped the definitions of injurious falls into more homogeneous categories to allow comparisons of results across studies and the pooling of data. For each study we extracted or calculated the rate ratio of injurious falls. Depending on the available data, a given study could contribute data relevant to one or more categories of injurious falls. A pooled rate ratio was estimated for each category of injurious falls based on random effects models.
Results 17 trials involving 4305 participants were eligible for meta-analysis. Four categories of falls were identified: all injurious falls, falls resulting in medical care, severe injurious falls, and falls resulting in fractures. Exercise had a significant effect in all categories, with pooled estimates of the rate ratios of 0.63 (95% confidence interval 0.51 to 0.77, 10 trials) for all injurious falls, 0.70 (0.54 to 0.92, 8 trials) for falls resulting in medical care, 0.57 (0.36 to 0.90, 7 trials) for severe injurious falls, and 0.39 (0.22 to 0.66, 6 trials) for falls resulting in fractures, but significant heterogeneity was observed between studies of all injurious falls (I2=50%, P=0.04).
Conclusions Exercise programmes designed to prevent falls in older adults also seem to prevent injuries caused by falls, including the most severe ones. Such programmes also reduce the rate of falls leading to medical care.