Indexed on: 14 Mar '17Published on: 14 Mar '17Published in: Journal of biomechanics
An inability to recover lateral balance with a single step is predictive of future falls in older adults. This study investigated if balance stability at first step lift-off (FSLO) would be different between multiple and single stepping responses to lateral perturbations. 54 healthy older adults received left and right waist-pulls at 5 different intensities (levels 1-5). Crossover stepping responses at and above intensity level 3 that induced both single and multiple steps were analyzed. Whole-body center of mass (COM) and center of pressure (COP) positions in the medio-lateral direction with respect to the base of support were calculated. An inverted pendulum model was used to define the lateral stability boundary, which was also adjusted using the COP position at FSLO (functional boundary). No significant differences were detected in the COP positions between the responses at FSLO (p≥0.075), indicating no difference in the functional boundaries between the responses. Significantly smaller stability margins were observed at first step landing for multiple steps at all levels (p≤0.024), while stability margins were also significantly smaller at FSLO for level 3 and 4 (p≤0.048). These findings indicate that although reduced stability at first foot contact would be associated with taking additional steps, stepping responses could also be attributable to the COM motion state as early as first step lift-off, preceding foot contact. Perturbation-based training interventions aimed at improving the reactive control of stability would reduce initial balance instability at first step lift-off and possibly the consequent need for multiple steps in response to balance perturbations.