Biomechanical predictors of maximal balance recovery performance amongst community-dwelling older adults

David F Graham, Christopher P Carty, David G Lloyd, Rod S Barrett
Experimental Gerontology 2015, 66: 39-46
Falls are prevalent in older adults and are predicted by the maximum forward lean magnitude (MRLM) that can be recovered using a single step. The purpose of this study was to determine the relative contribution of selected neuromuscular and biomechanical variables associated with balance recovery to the MRLM. Forward loss of balance was induced by releasing participants (n=117 community-dwelling older adults) from a static forward lean angle. Participants were instructed to attempt to recover balance by taking a single step. A scalable anatomical model consisting of 36 degrees-of-freedom was used to compute kinematics and joint moments from motion capture and force plate data. Isometric muscle strength at the ankle, knee and hip joints was assessed using a dynamometer. A univariate analysis revealed that lower limb strength measures, step recovery kinematics, and stepping limb kinetics accounted for between 8 and 19%, 3 and 59%, and 3 and 61% of the variance in MRLM respectively. When all variables were entered into a stepwise multiple regression analysis, normalised step length, peak hip extension moment, trunk angle at foot contact, and peak hip flexion power during stepping together accounted for 69% of the variance in MRLM. These findings confirm that successful recovery from forward loss of balance is a whole body control task that requires adequate trunk control and generation of adequate lower limb moments and powers to generate a long and rapid step. Training programmes that specifically target these measures may be effective in improving balance recovery performance and thereby contribute to fall prevention amongst older adults.

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