How early reactions in the support limb contribute to balance recovery after tripping

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    Tripping causes a forward angular momentum that has to be arrested to prevent a fall. The support limb, contralateral to the obstructed swing limb, can contribute to an adequate recovery by providing time and clearance for proper positioning of the recovery limb, and by restraining the angular momentum of the body during push-off. The present study investigated how such a contribution is achieved by the support limb in terms of response times and muscle moment generation, in order to provide more insight in the requirements for successful recovery after tripping. Twelve young adults repeatedly walked over a platform in which 21 obstacles were hidden. Each subject was tripped over one of these obstacles during mid-swing in at least five trials. Kinematics, dynamics and muscle activity were measured. Very rapid responses were seen in the muscles of the support limb (∼65ms), causing fast increases in muscle moments in the joints during the primary phase of recovery. Especially a large ankle plantar flexion moment (204Nm), a knee flexion moment (-54Nm) and a hip extension moment (52Nm), generated by triceps surae and hamstring muscle activity, brought about the necessary push-off reaction and simultaneously caused a restraining of the forward angular momentum of the body. These required joint moments could be a problem for the elderly, who might not be able to generate such powerful moments. Strength training in these muscle groups may be indicated in elderly subjects to reduce the risk of falling after a trip. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)627-34
    JournalJournal of Biomechanics
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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