Tripping Elicits Earlier and Larger Deviations in Linear Head Acceleration Compared to Slipping

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Slipping and tripping contribute to a large number of falls and fall-related injuries. While the vestibular system is known to contribute to balance and fall prevention, it is unclear whether it contributes to detecting slip or trip onset. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of slipping and tripping on head acceleration during walking. This information would help determine whether individuals with vestibular dysfunction are likely to be at a greater risk of falls due to slipping or tripping, and would inform the potential development of assistive devices providing augmented sensory feedback for vestibular dysfunction. Twelve young men were exposed to an unexpected slip or trip. Head acceleration was measured and transformed to an approximate location of the vestibular system. Peak linear acceleration in anterior, posterior, rightward, leftward, superior, and inferior directions were compared between slipping, tripping, and walking. Compared to walking, peak accelerations were up to 4.68 m/s2 higher after slipping, and up to 10.64 m/s2 higher after tripping. Head acceleration first deviated from walking 100-150ms after slip onset and 0-50ms after trip onset. The temporal characteristics of head acceleration support a possible contribution of the vestibular system to detecting trip onset, but not slip onset. Head acceleration after slipping and tripping also appeared to be sufficiently large to contribute to the balance recovery response.