Abstract

Importance: Falls have a considerable physical and psychological impact on people with spinal cord injury (SCI). Occupational therapy practitioners require evidence to support the timely development of occupation-based programs that can be applied to fall prevention in daily life.

Objective: To determine what is known about falls after SCI, including wheelchair users and people who are ambulatory, and to understand elements of fall prevention to be addressed by occupational therapy practitioners. We applied the Canadian Measure of Occupational Performance and Engagement to understand elements to be addressed in fall education and prevention with this population.

Data Sources: We searched eight databases using the key words falls and spinal cord injury with no limit set on dates.

Study Selection and Data Collection: Studies were included that reported on falls among adults with SCI and measured one or more of the following: incidence of falls, consequences of falls, contributing factors for falls, the person’s experience of falls, and strategies to prevent falls.

Findings: Thirty-five articles were included. The majority of the articles included information on the incidence (n = 20), consequences (n = 26), and contributing factors (n = 30) of falls. Two articles analyzed the person’s experience of falls, and 1 study reviewed a fall prevention program for people with SCI specifically.

Conclusions and Relevance: Research on participants’ experience of falls and fall prevention programs used in spinal cord rehabilitation is extremely limited. Future research on the lived experience of falls for people with SCI is warranted.

What This Article Adds: This review of evidence on falls after SCI highlights gaps in the current available evidence.

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