COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Voluntary sway and rapid orthogonal transitions of voluntary sway in young adults, and low and high fall-risk older adults

Murray G Tucker, Justin J Kavanagh, Steven Morrison, Rod S Barrett
Clinical Biomechanics 2009, 24 (8): 597-605
19564063

BACKGROUND: Falls amongst older people have been linked to reduced postural stability and slowed movement responses. The objective of this study was to examine differences in postural stability and the speed of response between young adults, low fall-risk older adults, and high fall-risk older adults during voluntary postural sway movements.

METHODS: Twenty-five young adults (25+/-4 years), and 32 low fall-risk (74+/-5 years), and 16 high fall-risk (79+/-7 years) older adults performed voluntary sway and rapid orthogonal transitions of voluntary sway between the anterior-posterior and medial-lateral directions. Measures included reaction and movement time and the amplitudes of the centre of pressure, centre of mass, and the separation distance between the centre of pressure and centre of mass.

FINDINGS: Both fall-risk groups compared to the young had slower reaction and movement time, greater centre of pressure and/or centre of mass amplitude in the orthogonal (non-target) direction during voluntary sway, and reduced anterior-posterior and medial-lateral separation between the centre of pressure and centre of mass during voluntary sway and orthogonal transitions. High compared to low fall-risk individuals had slower reaction and movement time, increased non-target centre of mass amplitude during voluntary sway, and reduced medial-lateral centre of pressure and centre of mass separation during voluntary sway and orthogonal transitions.

INTERPRETATION: Age-related deterioration of postural control resulted in slower reactive responses and reduced control of the direction of body movement during voluntary sway and orthogonal transitions. Slower postural reaction and movement time and reduced medial-lateral control of the centre of mass during voluntary sway movements are associated with increased fall-risk in community-living older people.

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