This study was supported by grants to Dr. Di Fabio from the Fesler-Lampert Endowment for Aging Studies and the Minnesota Medical Foundation.
Footlift Asymmetry During Obstacle Avoidance in High-Risk Elderly
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2004
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
Volume 52, Issue 12, pages 2088–2093, December 2004
How to Cite
Di Fabio, R. P., Kurszewski, W. M., Jorgenson, E. E. and Kunz, R. C. (2004), Footlift Asymmetry During Obstacle Avoidance in High-Risk Elderly. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 52: 2088–2093. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2004.52569.x
- Issue published online: 18 NOV 2004
- Article first published online: 18 NOV 2004
- obstacle avoidance;
Objectives: To test the hypothesis that vertical footlift asymmetries and low obstacle clearing distance during obstacle avoidance are characteristics of elderly people classified as high risk for falls.
Design: Controlled cross-sectional design with two conditions to cue selection of the foot-for-step initiation: sound cue and visual cue.
Setting: Senior independent living facilities.
Participants: Eighteen community-dwelling elderly with a history of falling or prolonged Timed Up and Go score greater than 13.5 seconds, 16 elderly with no fall history and Timed Up & Go score of 13.5 seconds or less, and 15 younger subjects.
Measurements: Video kinematic analysis of bilateral footlift displacement and velocity using reflective markers as subjects stepped over foam obstacles scaled to a maximum tolerated height.
Results: High-risk elders contacted the obstacle more frequently and had significantly greater vertical footlift asymmetries adjusted for obstacle/subject height (mean±standard error asymmetry index for sound cue 3.25±0.42 cm, for visual cue 2.51±0.45 cm) than low-risk and younger subjects (P<.001). In low-risk elderly and younger subjects, the asymmetry index approached 0, which indicated symmetrical lower limb movements when stepping over the obstacles.
Conclusion: High-risk elderly show a marked asymmetry in foot clearance while stepping over an obstacle, with the lag foot clearing the obstacle at a much lower distance than the lead foot. Possible mechanisms responsible for these findings (limited hip extension and deficits in executive cognitive function) are discussed.