Quantification of the Trade-Off Between Force Attenuation and Balance Impairment in the Design of Compliant Safety Floors

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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Safety floors (also known as compliant floors) may reduce the risk of fall-related injuries by attenuating impact force during falls, but are only practical if they do not negatively affect balance and mobility. In this study, we evaluated seven safety surfaces based on their ability to attenuate peak femoral neck force during simulated hip impacts, and their influence on center of pressure (COP) sway during quiet and tandem stance. Overall, we found that some safety floors can attenuate up to 33.7% of the peak femoral impact force without influencing balance. More specifically, during simulated hip impacts, force attenuation for the safety floors ranged from 18.4 (SD 4.3)% to 47.2 (3.1)%, with each floor significantly reducing peak force compared with a rigid surface. For quiet stance, only COP root mean square was affected by flooring (and increased for only two safety floors). During tandem stance, COP root mean square and mean velocity increased in the medial-lateral direction for three of the seven floors. Based on the substantial force attenuation with no concomitant effects on balance for some floors, these results support the development of clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of safety floors at reducing fall-related injuries in high-risk settings.

Michal N. Glinka and Andrew C. Laing (Corresponding Author) are with the Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Kim P. Cheema and Stephen N. Robinovitch are with the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.