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Research model may one day 'inoculate' elderly against slip-related falls
Date:2/4/2009

ey fell. Motion capture instruments and videos of the sessions also helped to document slip outcomes ("skate-over", "walkover" or "loss of balance") and falls.

The participants were compared to a group of seven controls who did not receive any training on the platform. Both groups were later asked to walk on a vinyl surface that had one slippery spot that they could not see. Instruments and videos were used to record the extent of their slip. The vinyl surface represented a particular challenge following the laboratory training, in part because it could cause the foot to slide in any direction.

Training inoculates against falls

The researchers found:

  • None of the trained participants fell on the slippery floor and seven of the eight never lost balance.
  • The control group's performance on the slippery floor revealed their lack of training. Their performance was akin to the trained group's first training slip on the platform.

The trained subjects were able to transfer the skill and avoid a fall on the slippery floor because they were better at controlling the landing foot, that is, the foot that is on the ground during the slip. They slowed down the movement of the foot as it began to slide forward. The landing foot of people in the untrained group went out from under them much faster.

"Controlling this foot, which is sliding forward, plays an important role in maintaining stability and prevents a backward fall," Pai said. The researchers also found that the trained group unconsciously changed their gait. They used a flatter landing foot and bent the landing knee more. These changes reduced the landing force and the velocity of the slip. Interestingly, the trained group did this while walking at their customary speed.

May help elderly

The brain is able to generalize fall training from one situation to another by modifying gait to make loss of balance less likely, th
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Contact: Christine Guilfoy
cguilfoy@the-aps.org
301-634-7253
American Physiological Society
Source:Eurekalert

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