Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Biomechanics


We previously reported that the probability of an older adult recovering from a forward trip and using a “lowering” strategy increases with decreased walking velocity and faster response time. To determine the within-subject interaction of these variables we asked three questions: (1) Is the body orientation at the time that the recovery foot is lowered to the ground (“tilt angle”) critical for successful recovery? (2) Can a simple inverted pendulum model, using subject-specific walking velocity and response time as input variables, predict this body orientation, and thus success of recovery? (3) Is slower walking velocity or faster response time more effective in preventing a fall after a trip? Tilt angle was a perfect predictor of a successful recovery step, indicating that the recovery foot placement must occur before the tilt angle exceeds a critical value of between 23° and 26° from vertical. The inverted pendulum model predicted the tilt angle from walking velocity and response time with an error of 0.4±2.2° and a correlation coefficient of 0.93. The model predicted that faster response time was more important than slower walking velocity for successful recovery. In a typical individual who is at risk for falling, we predicted that a reduction of response time to a normal value allows a 77% increase in safe walking velocity. The mathematical model produced patient-specific recommendations for fall prevention, and suggested the importance of directing therapeutic interventions toward improving the response time of older adults.


This research was partially supported by grant AG10557 from the National Institutes of Health (to MDG).