Background: A cross-sectional retrospective study of parameters reflecting balance function in elderly fallers and non-fallers was conducted to better understand postural control mechanisms in individuals prone to falls. Methods: Ninety-nine old adults (65-91 years, mean age 78.4 (SD 5.7)) from two self-care residential facilities participated in the study. Foot center-of-pressure (CoP) displacement data were collected during narrow base upright stance eyes closed conditions and analyzed using summary statistics and Stabilogram-Diffusion Analysis (SDA) for mediolateral (ML) and anteroposterior (AP) directions. Subjects were instructed to minimize body sway. Findings: Twenty-nine of the subjects reported at least one fall and 69 subjects reported no falls in the past six months. The SDA showed significantly higher short-term diffusion coefficients and critical displacements in fallers in the ML but not the AP direction. Mean sway area and ML-CoP sway range were also larger in fallers. Interpretation: The greater ML critical displacement seen in fallers suggests that balance corrections on average occurred at higher sway amplitudes in this population. This is consistent with an ML decrease in the sensitivity of their postural control system. A higher short-term diffusion coefficient is consistent with increased muscle stiffness, a possible compensation for lost control sensitivity. Testing balance function under narrow stance conditions provides a modest increase in task difficulty that may help reveal pre-conditions of the balance control system that could increase the risk of falls.
- Open and closed-loop mechanisms
- Postural control
- Stabilogram-Diffusion Analysis