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Human Movement Science

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Trips are a major cause of falls. Sagittal-plane kinematics affect clearance between the foot and obstacles, however, it is unclear which kinematic measures during obstacle-free walking are associated with avoiding a trip when encountering an obstacle. The purpose of this study was to determine kinematic factors during obstacle-free walking that are related to obstacle avoidance ability. It was expected that successful obstacle avoidance would be associated with greater peak flexion/dorsiflexion and range of motion (ROM), and differences in timing of peak flexion/dorsiflexion during swing of obstacle-free walking for the hip, knee and ankle. Three-dimensional kinematics were recorded as 35 participants (young adults age 18–45 (N = 10), older adults age 65+ without a history of falls (N = 10), older adults age 65+ who had fallen in the last six months (N = 10), and individuals who had experienced a stroke more than six months earlier (N = 5)) walked on a treadmill, under obstacle-free walking conditions with kinematic features calculated for each stride. A separate obstacle avoidance task identified trippers (multiple obstacle contact) and non-trippers. Linear discriminant analysis with sequential feature selection classified trippers and non-trippers based on kinematics during obstacle-free walking. Differences in classification performance and selected features (knee ROM and timing of peak knee flexion during swing) were evaluated between trippers and non-trippers. Non-trippers had greater knee ROM (P = .001). There was no significant difference in classification performance (P = .193). Individuals with reduced knee ROM during obstacle-free walking may have greater difficulty avoiding obstacles.


Accepted version. Human Movement Science, Vol. 64 (December 2018): 58-66. DOI. © 2018 Elsevier. Used with permission.

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