The kinematics and strategies of recovery steps during lateral losses of balance in standing at different perturbation magnitudes in older adults with varying history of falls
Step-recovery responses are critical in preventing falls when balance is lost unexpectedly. We investigated the kinematics and strategies of balance recovery in older adults with a varying history of falls. In a laboratory study, 51 non-fallers (NFs), 20 one-time fallers (OFs), and 12 recurrent-fallers (RFs) were exposed to random right/left unannounced underfoot perturbations in standing of increasing magnitude. The stepping strategies and kinematics across an increasing magnitude of
... ons and the single- and multiple-step threshold trials, i.e., the lowest perturbation magnitude to evoke single step and multiple steps, respectively, were analyzed. Fall efficacy (FES) and self-reported lower-extremity function were also assessed. OFs had significantly lower single- and multiple-step threshold levels than NFs; the recovery-step kinematics were similar. Surprisingly, RFs did not differ from NFs in either threshold. The kinematics in the single-step threshold trial in RFs, however, showed a significant delay in step initiation duration, longer step duration, and larger center of mass (CoM) displacement compared with NFs and OFs. In the multiple-step threshold trial, the RFs exhibited larger CoM displacements and longer time to fully recover from balance loss. Interestingly, in the single-stepping trials, 45% of the step-recovery strategies used by RFs were the loaded-leg strategy, about two times more than OFs and NFs (22.5 and 24.2%, respectively). During the multiple-stepping trials, 27.3% of the first-step recovery strategies used by RFs were the loaded-leg strategy about two times more than OFs and NFs (11.9 and 16.4%, respectively), the crossover stepping strategy was the dominated response in all 3 groups (about 50%). In addition, RFs reported a lower low-extremity function compared with NFs, and higher FES in the OFs. RFs had impaired kinematics during both single-step and multiple-step recovery responses which was associated with greater leg dysfunction. OFs and NFs had similar recovery-step kinematics, but OFs were more likely to step at lower perturbation magnitudes suggesting a more "responsive" over-reactive step response related from their higher fear of falling and not due to impaired balance abilities. These data provide insight into how a varying history of falls might affect balance recovery to a lateral postural perturbation. This study was registered prospectively on November 9th, 2011 at clinicaltrials.gov ( NCT01439451 ).