Underlying somatosensory processing deficits of joint rotation velocities may cause patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) to be more unstable for fast rather than slow balance perturbations. Such deficits could lead to reduced proprioceptive amplitude feedback triggered by perturbations, and thereby to smaller or delayed stabilizing postural responses. For this reason, we investigated whether support surface perturbation velocity affects balance reactions in PD patients. We examined postural responses of seven PD patients (OFF medication) and eight age-matched controls following backward rotations of a support-surface platform. Rotations occurred at three different speeds: fast (60 deg/s), medium (30 deg/s) or slow (3.8 deg/s), presented in random order. Each subject completed the protocol under eyes open and closed conditions. Full body kinematics, ankle torques and the number of near-falls were recorded. Patients were significantly more unstable than controls following fast perturbations (26% larger displacements of the body's centre of mass; P<0.01), but not following slow perturbations. Also, more near-falls occurred in patients for fast rotations. Balance correcting ankle torques were weaker for patients than controls on the most affected side, but were stronger than controls for the least affected side. These differences were present both with eyes open and eyes closed (P<0.01). Fast support surface rotations caused greater instability and discriminated Parkinson patients better from controls than slow rotations. Although ankle torques on the most affected side were weaker, patients partially compensated for this by generating larger than normal stabilizing torques about the ankle joint on the least affected side. Without this compensation, instability may have been greater.