Falls in older adults are leading causes of fatal and non-fatal injuries, negatively impacting quality of life among those in this demographic. Most elderly falls occur due to unrecoverable limb collapse during balance control in the single-limb support (SLS) phase. To understand why older adults are more susceptible to falls than younger adults, we investigated age-related differences in lower limb kinematics, kinetics, and muscle synergy patterns during SLS, as well as their relationship to postural control strategies. Thirteen older and thirteen younger healthy adults were compared during the SLS phase of balance recovery following an unexpected surface drop perturbation. Compared to younger adults, older adults demonstrated (1) greater trunk flexion, (2) increased hip extension torque and reduced hip abduction torque of the perturbed leg, and (3) higher postural sway. Trunk flexion was correlated with a delayed latency to the start of lateral-to-medial displacement of center of mass from the perturbation onset. The group-specific muscle synergy revealed that older adults exhibited prominent activation of the hip extensors, while younger adults showed prominent activation of the hip abductors. These findings provide insights into targeted balance rehabilitation and indicate ways to improve postural stability and reduce falls in older adults.


This article is published by MDPI under a Creative Commons CC-BY license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).



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