Non-Treadmill Trip Training – Laboratory Efficacy, Validation of Inertial Measurement Units, and Tripping Kinematics in the Real World


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Virginia Tech


Trip-induced falls are a leading cause of injuries among adults aged 65 years or older. Perturbation-based balance training (PBT) has emerged as an exercise-based fall prevention intervention and shown efficacy in reducing the risk of trip-induced falls. The broad goal of my PhD research was to advance the application of this so-called trip training through three studies designed to address existing knowledge gaps. First, trip training is commonly conducted with the aid of costly specialized treadmills to induce trip-like perturbations. An alternative version of trip training that eliminates the need for a treadmill would enhance training feasibility and enable wider adoption. The goal of the first study was to compare the effects of non-treadmill training (NT), treadmill training (TT), and a control (i.e., no training) on reactive balance after laboratory-induced trips among community-dwelling older adults. After three weeks of the assigned intervention, participants were exposed to two laboratory-induced trips while walking. Results showed different beneficial effects of NT and TT. For example, NT may be more beneficial in improving recovery step kinematics, while TT may be more beneficial in improving trunk kinematics, compared to the control. While the first study showed the effects of PBT on laboratory-induced trips, little is known about how such training affects responses to real-world trips. Responses to real-world trips may be captured using wearable inertial measurement units (IMUs), yet IMUs have not been adequately validated for this use. Therefore, the goal of the second study was to investigate the concurrent validity of IMU-based trunk kinematics against the gold standard optical motion capture (OMC)-based trunk kinematics after overground trips among community-dwelling older adults. During two laboratory-induced trips, participants wore two IMUs placed on the sternum and shoulder, and OMC markers placed at anatomical landmarks of the trunk segment. Results showed that IMU-based trunk kinematics differed between falls and recoveries after overground trips, and exhibited at least good correlation (Pearson's correlation coefficient, r > 0.5) with the gold standard OMC-based trunk kinematics. The goal of the third study was then to explore differences in tripping kinematics between the laboratory and real world using wearable IMUs among community-dwelling older adults. Participants were asked to wear three IMUs (for sternum and both feet) and a voice recorder to capture their responses to real-world losses of balance (LOBs) during their daily activities for three weeks. Results showed a higher variance in laboratory-induced trips than real-world trips, and the study demonstrated the feasibility of using IMUs and a voice recorder to understand the underlying mechanisms and context of real-world LOBs. Overall, this work was innovative by evaluating a non-treadmill version of trip training, establishing the validity of IMUs in capturing kinematic responses after overground trips, and applying IMUs and a voice recorder to assess tripping kinematics in the real world. The results from this work will advance the use of PBT to reduce the prevalence of trip-induced falls and to investigate the real-world effects of such trip training in future studies.



trip-induced falls, older adults, reactive balance, perturbation-based balance training, wearable sensors, loss of balance, biomechanics