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  • Author: Andrew C. Laing x
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Shivam Bhan, Iris Levine and Andrew C. Laing

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.

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Michelle R. Tanel, Tyler B. Weaver and Andrew C. Laing

While the literature has characterized balance control during quasi-static and/or dynamic tasks, comparatively few studies have examined relationships across paradigms. This study investigated whether quiet-stance postural steadiness metrics were associated with reactive control parameters (during both stepping and restabilization phases) following a lean-and-release perturbation. A total of 40 older adults participated. Postural steadiness (center of the pressure range, root mean square, velocity, and frequency) was evaluated in “feet together” and “tandem stance” positions. During the reactive control trials, the step length, step width, movement time, and reaction time were measured, in addition to the postural steadiness variables measured during the restabilization phase following the stepping response. Out of 64 comparisons, only 10 moderate correlations were observed between postural steadiness and reactive spatio-temporal stepping parameters (P ≤ .05, r = −.312 to −.534). However, postural steadiness metrics were associated with the center of pressure velocity and frequency during the restabilization phase of the reactive control trials (P ≤ .02, r = .383 to .775 for velocity and P ≤ .01, r = .386 to .550 for frequency). Although some elements of quasi-static center of pressure control demonstrated moderate associations with dynamic stepping responses, relationships were stronger for restabilization phase dynamics after foot-contact. Future work should examine the potential association between restabilization phase control and older adult fall-risk.

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Tyler B. Weaver, Christine Ma and Andrew C. Laing

The Nintendo Wii Balance Board (WBB) has become popular as a low-cost alternative to research-grade force plates. The purposes of this study were to characterize a series of technical specifications for the WBB, to compare balance control metrics derived from time-varying center of pressure (COP) signals collected simultaneously from a WBB and a research-grade force plate, and to investigate the effects of battery life. Drift, linearity, hysteresis, mass accuracy, uniformity of response, and COP accuracy were assessed from a WBB. In addition, 6 participants completed an eyes-closed quiet standing task on the WBB (at 3 battery life levels) mounted on a force plate while sway was simultaneously measured by both systems. Characterization results were all associated with less than 1% error. R2 values reflecting WBB sensor linearity were > .99. Known and measured COP differences were lowest at the center of the WBB and greatest at the corners. Between-device differences in quiet stance COP summary metrics were of limited clinical significance. Lastly, battery life did not affect WBB COP accuracy, but did influence 2 of 8 quiet stance WBB parameters. This study provides general support for the WBB as a low-cost alternative to research-grade force plates for quantifying COP movement during standing.

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Michal N. Glinka, Kim P. Cheema, Stephen N. Robinovitch and Andrew C. Laing

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.