Effects of age and acute muscle fatigue on reactive postural control in healthy adults

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Abstract

Background:

Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries such as hip fractures and head trauma in older adults. While declines in muscle strength and sensory function contribute to increased falls in older adults, skeletal muscle fatigue is often overlooked as an additional contributor to fall risk. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the effects of acute lower extremity muscle fatigue and age on reactive postural control in healthy adults.

Methods:

A sample of 16 individuals participated in this study (8 healthy older adults and 8 healthy young persons). Whole body kinematic and kinetic data were collected during anterior and posterior reproducible fall tests before (T0) and immediately after (T1) eccentric muscle fatiguing exercise, as well as after 15-min (T15) and 30-min (T30) of rest.

Findings:

Lower extremity joint kinematics of the stepping limb during the support (landing) phase of the anterior fall were significantly altered by the presence of acute muscle fatigue. Step velocity was significantly decreased during the anterior falls. Statistically significant main effects of age were found for step length in both fall directions. Effect sizes for all outcomes were small. No statistically significant interaction effects were found.

Interpretation:

Muscle fatigue has a measurable effect on lower extremity joint kinematics during simulated falls. These alterations appear to resolve within 15 min of recovery. The above deficits, coupled with a reduced step length, may help explain the increased fall risk in older adults.

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