Prevention of falls and hip fractures in the elderly through biomechanics

Falls are the number one cause of injury-related deaths and hospitalizations in Canada. Among the elderly, falls account for 84 per cent of all injuries and about 23,000 hip fractures annually. Reducing the frequency and severity of these injuries is a critical national health priority, and one that my research team is approaching from several angles. In one approach, we are using laboratory experiments and mathematical modeling to study age-related changes in posture and balance along with strategies for avoiding injury in the event of a fall. In another approach, we are determining how movement patterns and risk for falls are affected by physiological factors, such as muscle strength and vision, and by behavioural factors, such as risk-taking tendencies. On the applied side, the team is working to develop devices such as hip pads, compliant floors and exercise programs to help prevent fractures. This combination of basic and applied efforts should lead to the development of innovative and effective techniques to prevent falls and fall-related fractures in the elderly.