A Preliminary Study of Trip Recovery Training in Older Adults for Use as a Fall Prevention Intervention

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Virginia Tech

Falls are a leading cause of injury and death in older adults. Numerous exercise interventions have been explored for fall prevention with their effectiveness being inconsistent. An alternative intervention based on motor learning concepts has potential to help prevent falls. Two separate studies are reported in this thesis. The purpose of the first study was to investigate if older adults exhibit short-term performance adaptation and long-term motor learning with repeated exposures to a simulated trip. While in a safety harness, participants stood on a treadmill that was quickly accelerated to simulate a trip. Improvements in trip recovery performance due to repeated exposures of a simulated trip included arresting the forward rotation of the trunk more quickly, reacting to the perturbation more quickly, and decreasing agonist/antagonist co-contraction. Overall, the results provide evidence for both short-term performance adaptation and motor learning. The purpose of the second study was to investigate if skills obtained from repeated exposure to a simulated trip transfer to recovery from an actual trip. Participants were randomly assigned to either an experimental or control group performing one trip before and after an intervention. The intervention for the experimental group consisted of trip recovery training on a treadmill while the intervention for the control group was walking on a treadmill. Overall, the results suggested beneficial effects of trip recovery training on actual trip recovery. These beneficial effects included decreasing maximum trunk angle, decreasing the time to reach maximum trunk angle, and raising minimum hip height during the initial recovery step.

older adults, intervention, falls