Task-specific balance training is an approach to fall prevention that has the potential to reduce the number of slip-induced falls. However, a limitation of current task-specific training methods is that they require nontrivial financial and/or equipment resources. This pilot study evaluated the efficacy of 2 low-cost, low-tech methods for slip-recovery training in improving balance recovery ability. The 2 methods were as follows: (1) repeated unexpected slip training (UST), which involved repeated unexpected slips while walking (similar to current methods of task-specific slip-recovery training) and (2) volitional slip-recovery training (VST), which involved practicing a slip recovery response after volitionally stepping to induce a slip-like perturbation. A total of 36 young adults completed 1 training session (UST, VST, or control), followed by 1 unexpected, laboratory-induced slip while walking on the following day. Compared with controls, UST and VST resulted in a higher proportion of successful balance recoveries from the laboratory-induced slips. UST improved both proactive control and the reactive stepping response after slipping, whereas VST improved the ability to arrest the motion of the slipping foot. Based on these preliminary results, UST and VST may provide practical, cost-effective methods for slip-recovery training.
Allin is with the Department of Biomedical Engineering & Mechanics, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA. Nussbaum and Madigan are with the Grado Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA.