Can sacral marker approximate center of mass during gait and slip-fall recovery among community-dwelling older adults?
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Falls are prevalent in older adults. Dynamic stability of body center of mass (COM) is critical for maintaining balance. A simple yet accurate tool to evaluate COM kinematics is essential to examine the COM stability. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which the COM position derived from body segmental analysis can be approximated by a single (sacral) marker during unperturbed (regular walking) and perturbed (gait-slip) gait. One hundred eighty seven older adults experienced an unexpected slip after approximately 10 regular walking trials. Two trials, the slip trial and the preceding regular walking trial, monitored with a motion capture system and force plates, were included in the present study. The COM positions were calculated by using the segmental analysis method wherein, the COM of all body segments was calculated to further estimate the body COM position. These body COM positions were then compared with those of the sacral marker placed at the second sacral vertebra for both trials. Results revealed that the COM positions were highly correlated with those of the sacrum׳s over the time intervals investigated for both walking (coefficient of correlation R>0.97) and slip (R>0.90) trials. There were detectable kinematic difference between the COM and the sacral for both trials. Our results indicated that the sacral marker can be used as a simple approximation of body COM for regular walking, and to somewhat a lesser extent, upon a slip. The benefits from the simplicity appear to overweigh the limitations in accuracy.