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Kinetic measures of restabilisation during volitional stepping reveal age-related alterations in the control of mediolateral dynamic stability

Jonathan C Singer, William E McIlroy, Stephen D Prentice
Journal of Biomechanics 2014 November 7, 47 (14): 3539-45
25262875
Research examining age-related changes in dynamic stability during stepping has recognised the importance of the restabilisation phase, subsequent to foot-contact. While regulation of the net ground reaction force (GRFnet) line of action is believed to influence dynamic stability during steady-state locomotion, such control during restabilisation remains unknown. This work explored the origins of age-related decline in mediolateral dynamic stability by examining the line of action of GRFnet relative to the centre of mass (COM) during restabilisation following voluntary stepping. Healthy younger and older adults (n=20 per group) performed three single-step tasks (varying speed and step placement), altering the challenge to stability control. Age-related differences in magnitude and intertrial variability of the angle of divergence of GRFnet line of action relative to the COM were quantified, along with the peak mediolateral and vertical GRFnet components. The angle of divergence was further examined at discrete points during restabilisation, to uncover events of potential importance to stability control. Older adults exhibited a reduced angle of divergence throughout restabilisation. Temporal and spatial constraints on stepping increased the magnitude and intertrial variability of the angle of divergence, although not differentially among the older adults. Analysis of the time-varying angle of divergence revealed age-related reductions in magnitude, with increases in timing and intertrial timing variability during the later phase of restabilisation. This work further supports the idea that age-related challenges in lateral stability control emerge during restabilisation. Age-related alterations during the later phase of restabilisation may signify challenges with reactive control.

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