Awarded Grant Traumatic Injury Biomechanics
Description: Fall-related injuries and deaths among older adults are a considerable societal problem and the present focus of this research. Trips account for up to and greater than 50 percent of fall-related hip and upper extremity fractures, respectively among older adults. This research uses a within- and between-subject experimental design to determine the effectiveness of task-specific training to decrease the incidence of trip-related falls.
Controlling the motion of the trunk is crucial for avoiding a fall after tripping. Researchers propose task-specific training that will involve stepping responses to avoid falling. They anticipate that increased skill level will be associated with significantly smaller trunk flexion angle and trunk flexion acceleration, thus lowering the incidence of falls. The global hypothesis is that fall incidence will be smaller in subjects who have participated in task-specific training compared to controls. To test this, 215 older women will be recruited over a three-year period to address two specific aims and three primary hypotheses. In Specific Aim 1, the extent to which motor skill learning occurs will be characterized over a four-week period and the extent to which the motor skill is retained after training is withheld. The hypothesis is that increased skill level will be associated with significantly smaller trunk flexion angle and trunk flexion acceleration after the treadmill disturbance. Also, the hypothesis is that skill level will not degrade significantly after four weeks during which training is withheld. In Specific Aim 2, the extent to which the learned motor skill reduces the incidence of falls after inducing forward-directed trip will be quantified. It is hypothesized that subjects who participated in the skill specific training protocol will have a significantly lower incidence of falls compared to the untrained control group.
Support of the hypotheses will provide evidence that task-specific exercise can contribute meaningfully and efficiently to fall prevention programs. It also provides a springboard for further study of graded, task-specific exercise as a component that can target older adults with a fear of falling, and those with physical impairments and disabilities.