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Phoenix Parkinson’s clinic makes strides in preventing patient falls

PHOENIX — There’s something new at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix that could help people with the disorder walk like a champ.

The center is teaming up with Arizona State University to study falls and how to prevent them. They are doing it with the help of a new slip simulator, which is part of the clinic’s launch of the Bob and Renee Parsons Falls Center.

Patients will use the slip simulator for studies that will be conducted both at the Phoenix clinic and at ASU.

“We’ve created a system like this where we could actually have individuals slip and fall all over the place,” said ASU biomedical engineering professor Dr. Thurmon Lockhart. “At the same time, they’re learning from that mistake, or learning from those errors.”

Patients who use the slip simulator are connected to a harness, and then they walk across a machine that’s been sprayed with liquid.

I gave the machine a try, and it felt like I was walking on an old Slip’N Slide, or on an icy or wet sidewalk.

The goal is to help the physicians figure out how to help patients learn to avoid falls.

“We’re using it as a prevention tool, as well as a simulation practice tool,” Lockhart said.

Falls are a major issue for millions of Americans. At least one-third of adults older than 65 will fall at least once a year, according to the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute. Fall-related injuries are the most common cause of hospitalizations and the leading cause of injury-related deaths among that age group.