Effects of aging on the biomechanics of slips and falls

Thurmon E. Lockhart, James L. Smith, Jeffrey C. Woldstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Although much has been learned in recent decades about the deterioration of muscular strength, gait adaptations, and sensory degradation among older adults, little is known about how these intrinsic changes affect biomechanical parameters associated with slip-induced fall accidents. In general, the objective of this laboratory study was to investigate the process of initiation, detection, and recovery of inadvertent slips and falls. We examined the initiation of and recovery from foot slips among three age groups utilizing biomechanical parameters, muscle strength, and sensory measurements. Forty-two young, middle-age, and older participants walked around a walking track at a comfortable pace. Slippery floor surfaces were placed on the track over force platforms at random intervals without the participants' awareness. Results indicated that younger participants slipped as often as the older participants, suggesting that the likelihood of slip initiation is similar across all age groups; however, older individuals' recovery process was much slower and less effective. The ability to successfully recover from a slip (thus preventing a fall) is believed to be affected by lower extremity muscle strength and sensory degradation among older individuals. Results from this research can help pinpoint possible intervention strategies for improving dynamic equilibrium among older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)708-729
Number of pages22
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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