• Age-differences in the free vertical moment during step descent

      Buckley, John G.; Jones, Stephen F.; Johnson, Louise (2010-02)
      This study utilises a rarely examined biomechanical parameter – the free vertical moment to determine age-related differences in rotational kinetics of the body about the vertical-axis when stepping down from a stationary position. Ten older and 10 young adults completed step-downs from three heights. Free vertical moment impulse and peak during step-initiation double-support and the subsequent step-execution phase, and vertical-axis pelvis angular displacement and velocity at instant of landing were compared. The free vertical moment during double-support was directed away from the intended leadlimb side, producing a change in vertical-axis rotational momentum that moved the lead-limb in a forwards- medial direction about the stationary support/trailing limb during the subsequent step-execution phase. The free vertical moment during step-execution was directed towards the lead-limb side and acted to slow/halt the body’s vertical-axis rotation away from lead-limb side. Free vertical moment impulse and peak during double-support were similar between groups (P > 0.05), but during step-execution were significantly reduced in older adults (P = 0.002). As a result older adults had greater verticalaxis pelvis angular displacement and velocity at instant of landing (directed away from lead-limb side), with significant (P < 0.001) group-by-step height interactions indicating that differences between groups became more pronounced with increasing step-height. These findings highlight that older adults were unable to exert the same vertical-axis control during single-support as young subjects did. Findings also highlight that the analysis of free vertical moment data can be a useful biomechanical tool to highlight age-related differences in how steps/stairs are negotiated.