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FallsLab


The objective of FallsLab is to understand balance and gait, develop therapies for people with conditions that increase the risk of falls, and to design and test technologies that prevent or mitigate falls and/or balance loss related injuries.

FallsLab’s state-of-the-art platform and gantry helps researchers assess how people stop themselves from falling after they lose their balance, and how different conditions affect control of balance and gait. FallsLab helps researchers study how the control and mechanics of balance and gait change with age or disease. FallsLab is a large moving platform that allows versatile applications. For example, a participant can walk across the platform, and the researcher can initiate sudden movements of the platform at a specific moment in the gait cycle to cause a slip or trip, while precisely measuring the reaction to the destabilizing motion. An overhead safety harness tracks the position of the participant and prevents falls to the ground.

Equipment Highlights

FallsLab is a 2-degree-of-freedom motion platform used to study stability and balance control during gait and stance. The 6x3m moving platform can accommodate up to 8 large force plates and is surrounded by motion capture and high speed video recording systems. The platform surface can be moved horizontally in any pattern comprised of combinations of different X and Y motions. The platform is capable of high accelerations and velocities, up to 10m/s2 and 2m/s respectively, with total displacements of over 2m in both directions in the horizontal plane. Extensions can be added to the platform, increasing its size to 7x3m. The platform movements can be programmed to be random or can be triggered by an event. By accelerating quickly in an unexpected direction, at an unexpected time, FallsLab can create “balance perturbations” that simulate a slip, trip or stumble. An instrumented safety harness gantry prevents the occupant from truly falling should a loss of balance occur. This specialized equipment allows balance disturbances to be applied in a well-controlled and safe manner to give insight into the development and maintenance of reactive balance reactions. The lab is equipped with a 3D motion capture system. The lab floor has a standard pattern of threaded holes that allows structures to be secured to the platform to represent environmental features, such as handrails, obstacles, and trip hazards.

Quick Facts

  1. According to the most recent Canadian data, 4 out of 5 injury hospitalizations involving seniors were due to falls.
  2. Best practices to avoid falls include doing regular balance and strength exercises, having non-slip surfaces in the tub and shower, and asking for help with tasks that can’t be done safely alone.
  3. Just over one-third of Canadians, aged 65 and older (34%), reported being concerned about a future fall. About a third of those who perceived a risk of falling had fallen within the past year.
  4. In 2017–2018, 51% of all injury-related hospitalizations in Canada were for seniors age 65 and older.

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