Control of support limb muscles in recovery after tripping in young and older subjects

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    Abstract

    Older people fall more often after tripping than young people due to a slower development of mechanical responses. This might be due to age-related changes in muscle properties, but also to changes in motor control. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether (a) timing and sequencing of muscle activation and (b) the magnitude and rate of development of muscle activation in recovery after a trip differs between young and older subjects. We focused on the support limb, as it contributes to recovery after tripping by counteracting the forward angular momentum. Ten young (25 years) and seven older (68 years) men and women walked over a platform and were tripped several times at different points in the gait cycle. Kinematics and EMG of the support limb muscles were measured. After tripping, rapid EMG responses (60-80 ms) were observed in hamstring and triceps surae muscles in both young and older subjects. A slightly increased delay (11 ms) was found only in the soleus muscle of the older subjects. The muscle activity patterns (timing and sequencing) were similar in young and older subjects, but the magnitude and rate of development of muscle activity were significantly lower in older subjects. Especially the lower rate of development of muscle activation in the support limb of older subjects is likely to reduce the rate of force generation, which can contribute to inadequate recovery responses and falls. © Springer-Verlag 2004.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)326-33
    JournalExperimental Brain Research
    Volume160
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2005

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