Falls-risk post-stroke: Examining contributions from paretic versus non paretic limbs to unexpected forward gait slips

Tejal Kajrolkar, Tanvi Bhatt
Journal of Biomechanics 2016 September 6, 49 (13): 2702-2708
Community-dwelling stroke survivors show a high incidence of falls with unexpected external perturbations during dynamic activities like walking. Previous evidence has demonstrated the importance of compensatory stepping to restore dynamic stability in response to perturbations in hemiparetic stroke survivors. However, these studies were limited to either stance perturbations or perturbation induced under the unaffected limb. This study aimed to compare the differences, if any, between the non-paretic and paretic sides in dynamic stability and protective stepping strategies when exposed to unexpected external perturbation during walking. Twenty hemiparetic subjects experienced an unexpected forward slip during walking on the laboratory walkway either on the paretic (n=10) or the nonparetic limb (n=10). Both groups demonstrated a backward loss of balance with a compensatory stepping response, with the nonparetic-side slip group resorting mainly to an aborted step response (60%) and the paretic-side slip group mainly exhibiting a recovery step response (90%). Although both groups showed an equal incidence of falls, the nonparetic-side slip group demonstrated a higher stability at recovery step touchdown, resulting from lower perturbation magnitudes (slip displacement and velocity) compared to the paretic-side slip group. The results indicate that the paretic side had difficulty initiating and executing a successful stepping response (nonparetic-side slip) and also in reactive limb control while in stance (paretic-side slip). Based on these results it is suggested that intervention strategies for fall-prevention in chronic stroke survivors should focus on paretic limb training for both reactive stepping and weight bearing for improving balance control for recovery from unpredictable perturbations during dynamic activities such as walking.

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