All of us would have had a fall at least once in our life. But how many of us wonder as to why we fall? Not many, in fact, not even a few of us. But researchers at the Locomotion Research Laboratory at Virginia Tech believe that finding the cause of a fall will help prevent them better. The researchers, who claim that around 50 per cent of aged people (over 75yrs) are institutionalized or even die due to a fall, have taken up the task of finding out the reason, to help develop preventive strategies.
The researchers studied volunteers of various age groups as they were made to walk on a treadmill which was gradually made slippery by introducing a fluid on the walking surface. The researchers attached sensors to the feet, legs, hips, ankles and arms to analyse the walker's gait as he or she slips and recovers or falls. Researchers found that walking style changes with age and that older people are more likely to fall as they have poorer balance and take shorter steps. They also add that poor sensory power, like poor vision, and reduced muscle strength could also contribute to a fall.
The study has helped the researchers discover effective ways of preventing falls or reducing injuries during a fall. One such discovery is the "hip bag", which acts a protective cushion that is triggered to inflate when someone slips. If they fall, it prevents injury. Special shoes, strength training routines, and environmental and flooring designs that minimize the risk of a fall are other discoveries which are on the way.