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Falls have become a major issue for millions of aging Americans. At least a third of the adult population over age 65 will fall at least once per year. The leading cause of injury-related deaths in adults over 65, falls are the most common cause for hospitalizations.
“Creating a falls program was really the next logical step for helping our patients to live healthier lives,” says Abraham Lieberman, MD, neurologist and director of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Barrow Neurological Institute.
A National Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence that provides the largest support network in the country for patients with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center is the primary beneficiary of Celebrity Fight Night. Celebrity Fight Night is an annual fundraising gala held this year in Phoenix on March 28 that attracts generous entertainers, celebrities and professional athletes from around the nation.
“Patients with Parkinson’s disease are a population who fall frequently because they often have difficulty with mobility or balance, or both. Falling is not only physically dangerous, but we’ve found that falls are also psychologically upsetting for many of our patients,” Dr. Lieberman adds.
Studies will take place both at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center’s Bob and Renee Parsons Falls Center and at ASU. While there’s a lot of research into which populations of people are more prone to falls, there’s little research surrounding why people fall.
“In addition to investigating different medications, supplements and exercise regimens, we will be able to accurately monitor patients’ day-to-day activity through our work with Dr. Lockhart and identify what causes our patients to fall,” Dr. Lieberman explains. “Once we know why they’re falling, we can identify a solution.”
Thurmon Lockhart, PhD, is a professor of biomedical engineering in the School of Biological Health and Systems Engineering, one of ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and an adjunct professor at Barrow Neurological Institute. A highly accomplished falls researcher, Dr. Lockhart’s work with the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center will focus on providing unique clinical solutions to injury prevention utilizing both engineering and biomedical principles.
“I am truly excited to work with Dr. Lieberman and his colleagues at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, bringing together the traditionally separated fields of medicine and engineering. Together we will collaborate on one of the top three national research priorities for Parkinson disease using innovative wireless biosensors that can be worn at home to continuously monitor dopa-resistant gait and posture features of PD that lead to falls,” says Dr. Lockhart.
One of the most famous athletes in history, Muhammad Ali is a three-time Heavy Weight Boxing Champion and was diagnosed with the disease in 1984. Currently, up to 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease and it is estimated that there will be a 30 percent increase of Parkinson’s over the next decade. As of yet, there is no cure. — Barrow