UK & World News

  • 29 August 2014, 12:16

Scientists Tripping Up Elderly On Treadmills

Researchers are tripping up old people in the name of science.

A team at the University of Illinois has created a special walkway designed to make elderly volunteers lose their footing - to work out new ways to stop the old and infirm from falling over.

Falls are the leading cause of injury in the elderly, and devising a way to reduce the number of them could prove to be a major medical breakthrough.

Scientists rigged up volunteers, including 81-year-old Mary Kaye, to overhead cables, to allow them to slip and trip without actually injuring themselves.

They were then placed onto a walkway which - at points - moved suddenly underneath their feet.

Sensors attached to their arms and legs tracked and analysed their movements, and how they responded to the sudden instability.

Physical therapy professor Clive Pai - who is leading the research - says that preliminary research shows that experiencing 24 trips during a walkway session reduces the chances of falling in the following 12 months by up to 50%.

He says it's because older adults can learn to catch themselves, avoiding damaging falls.

The treadmill technique will need several years of study before it is clear whether it works.

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