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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Age and stepping limb performance differences during a single-step recovery from a forward fall

Michael L Madigan, Emily M Lloyd
Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 2005, 60 (4): 481-5
15933388

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was two-fold: 1) to evaluate any age-related differences in peak joint velocities of the stepping limb during single-step recovery from a forward fall, and 2) to determine if the ability to recover from a forward fall with a single step differs when stepping with the dominant or nondominant lower limb (LL).

METHODS: Ten young (19-23 years old) and ten older (65-83 years old) men were released from forward-leaning positions and attempted to recover their balance with a single step. Lean magnitude was increased until the men failed to recover their balance with a single step. The men performed the experiment twice, once while stepping with the dominant LL and once while stepping with the nondominant LL, to determine if the ability to recover from a forward fall is limb dependent. Peak joint velocities during single-step recoveries were determined.

RESULTS: No age-related differences in peak joint velocities were found during recovery from small lean magnitudes, but older men exhibited slower velocities during recovery from maximum lean magnitudes. There was no difference in the maximum lean magnitude achieved by the men when stepping with the dominant or nondominant LL.

CONCLUSIONS: The previously reported age-related reduction in stepping speed seems to be due to localized reductions in maximum hip flexion velocity, knee flexion and extension velocity, and ankle plantar flexion velocity. Also, the ability of young and older men to recover from a forward fall with a single step does not seem to be limb dependent.

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