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J Mot Behav. 2002 Mar;34(1):37-44.

Postural muscle responses following changing balance threats in young, stable older, and unstable older adults.

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Department of Physical Therapy, National Cheng Kung University, No. 1 Ta-Hsueh Road, Tainan, Taiwan 701.


The authors determined the postural muscle response to support surface perturbations, in relation to aging and level of stability of 16 young adults and 32 older adults who were classified into stable (SOA) and unstable (UOA) groups on the basis of their functional balance abilities. Forward and backward support surface translations of various amplitudes and velocities were used so that postural responses of the standing adults could be elicited. The thigh and leg postural muscle responses were recorded with surface electromyography (EMG). The older groups had significantly longer onset latency in the anterior postural muscles, smaller integrated EMG in the posterior muscles, and greater extent of integrated EMG attenuation over time. The UOA showed longer onset latency in the gastrocnemius following slow backward perturbation and used a greater percentage of the functional capacity of the gastrocnemius muscle than the SOA did. Those findings indicate that the SOA and UOA had limited ability to adapt to changing balance threats; the UOA were more limited than the SOA. When designing balance training programs, therefore, therapists should consider the adult's level of functional stability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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