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Riley C. Sheehan and Jinger S. Gottschall

In a previous study, we found that participants modified how they transitioned onto and off of ramp configurations depending upon the incline. While the transition strategies were originally attributed to ramp angles, it is possible that the plateau influenced the strategies since the final surface height also differed. Ultimately, for the current study, we hypothesized that an individual’s transition strategies would have significant main effects for ramp angle, but not plateau height. Twelve healthy, young adults transitioned onto 3 distinct ramp configurations, a 2.4-m ramp angled at 12.5° ending at a plateau height of 53 cm, a 1.2-m ramp angled at 23.5° ending at a plateau height of 53 cm, and a 2.4-m ramp angled at 23.5° ending at a plateau height of 99.5 cm. Kinematics, kinetics, and muscle activity were measured during the stance phase before contacting the ramp. In support of our hypothesis, impact peak, active peak, and all of the muscle activity variables had a significant main effect for ramp angle, with greater vertical force peaks and muscle activity on steeper ramp transitions. These findings support our previous interpretation that individuals use estimations of ramp angle, not plateau height, to determine their transition strategies.

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Riley C. Sheehan and Jinger S. Gottschall

Falls are the leading cause of injury for all age groups. However, adults over 65 are at a higher risk, with one-third falling each year. Transitioning between level and hill surfaces poses a greater fall risk than walking on either surface alone. Previous studies found that young adults adopted a cautious gait pattern to mitigate this risk. As older adults typically employ a cautious pattern during level walking, we investigated how they modify their gait pattern to safely transition between surfaces. Twenty adults over the age of 65 transitioned onto and off of a 15° ramp while we recorded kinematics and muscle activity. During the level-to-downhill and uphill-to-level transitions, participants took slower, shorter steps indicative of an exaggerated cautious gait pattern. The older adults also exhibited greater muscle activity during the transitions, which may be due to muscle weakness requiring compensatory strategies to meet the greater demands of the task. However, the slower, shorter steps when transitioning from uphill to level suggest that these compensations may not always be adequate. Thus, it is important to consider the relationship between physical abilities and task demands in evaluating walking terrains that may be excessively difficult or dangerous for older adults.

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Riley C. Sheehan and Jinger S. Gottschall

Individuals must constantly modify their gait patterns to safely transition between different surfaces. The goal of the current study was to determine if gait changes could be detected two steps from a transition, and whether these changes scaled with the angle of the hill. We hypothesized that during the anticipation of uphill walking and the aftereffect of downhill walking, the magnitude of kinetic and electromyography changes would be greatest at steep hill angles and fewer steps from the transition. We collected force and electromy-ography data as participants walked on the level ground before an uphill ramp and after a downhill ramp. As hypothesized, there were significant main effects for both the number of steps and angle of the hill for the first vertical GRF peak, as well as lateral gastrocnemius and vastus lateralis activity. Overall, our results indicate that when transitioning to and from hills, anticipation and aftereffect responses occur at least two steps from the transition and are scaled to the angle of the hill.