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One-leg stance in healthy young and elderly adults: a measure of postural steadiness?

Erika Jonsson, Ake Seiger, Helga Hirschfeld
Clinical Biomechanics 2004, 19 (7): 688-94
15288454

OBJECTIVE: To investigate postural steadiness during 30 s of one-leg stance in healthy young and elderly adults, by analysing the pattern of the ground reaction force variability.

DESIGN: A laboratory set-up was used to analyse the variability of the ground reaction forces in relation to time as a measure of postural steadiness.

BACKGROUND: The one-leg stance test is a measure considered to assess postural steadiness in a static position by a temporal measurement. The common notion is that a better postural steadiness, i.e. less force variability, allows for longer time standing on one leg. However, there is lack of evidence how postural steadiness during one-leg stance changes over time.

METHODS: Twenty-eight healthy elderly and 28 healthy young adults were tested by means of force plates assessing ground reaction forces while performing one-leg stance.

RESULTS: During one-leg stance, two phases could be identified in both groups: First a dynamic phase, a rapid decrease of force variability, and thereafter a static phase, maintaining a certain level of force variability. During the first 5 s of one-leg stance the force variability decreased significantly more in the young group resulting in a lower force variability level during the static phase than in the elderly.

CONCLUSIONS: The difficulties in maintaining the static position in elderly seems dependent on the reduced initial decrease in force variability and/or musculoskeletal components. We suggest that the first 5 s are crucial when assessing balance during one-leg stance.

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