The biomechanical effectiveness of safety floors has never been assessed during sideways falls with human volunteers. Furthermore, the influence of body mass index (BMI) and gender on the protective capacity of safety floors is unknown. The purpose of this study was to test whether safety floors provide greater impact attenuation compared with traditional flooring, and whether BMI and gender modify their impact attenuation properties. Thirty participants (7 men and 7 women of low BMI; 7 men and 9 women of high BMI) underwent lateral pelvis release trials on 2 common floors and 4 safety floors. As a group, the safety floors reduced peak force (by up to 11.7%), and increased the time to peak force (by up to 25.5%) compared with a traditional institutional grade floor. Force attenuation was significantly higher for the low BMI group, and for males. Force attenuation was greatest for the low BMI males, averaging 26.5% (SD = 3.0) across the safety floors. These findings demonstrate an overall protective effect of safety floors during lateral falls on the pelvis, but also suggest augmented benefits for frail older adults (often with low body mass) who are at an increased risk of hip fracture.
Shivam Bhan, Iris Levine, and Andrew C. Laing (Corresponding Author) are with the Injury Biomechanics and Aging Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.