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Novel compliant floors aim to decrease the risk for fall-related injury by providing substantial force attenuation during the impact phase of falls. Certain models of compliant flooring have been shown to have limited influence on postural sway and successful completion of dynamic balance tasks. However, the effects of these products on balance recovery mechanisms following an externally induced perturbation have yet to be quantified.
We used a floor translation paradigm to induce a balance perturbation to thirteen elderly community-dwelling women. Outcome measures included the displacement rates and margins of safety for both the underfoot centre-of-pressure and whole-body centre-of-mass across two novel compliant floors (Smart-Cell, SofTile), two basic foam surfaces (Firm-Foam, Soft-Foam) and a standard ‘Rigid’ floor as a control condition.
The centre-of-mass and centre-of-pressure margins of safety, and all centre-of-mass displacement rates, were not significantly lower for the two novel compliant flooring systems compared to the control floor. The centre-of-pressure displacement rates were similar to the control floor for the SmartCell floor condition. The majority of the margin of safety and displacement rate variables for the foam floors were significantly lower than the control condition.
This study illustrates that the SmartCell and SofTile novel compliant floors have minimal influences on balance and balance control responses following externally induced perturbations in older community-dwelling women, and supports pilot installations of these floors to inform decisions regarding the development of clinical trials.