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Gait Posture. 2005 Jan;21(1):24-38.

Ground reaction forces on stairs: effects of stair inclination and age.

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Laboratory for Biomechanics, Department of Materials, ETH Zürich, Wagistr. 4, 8952 Schlieren, Switzerland.


The goals of the study were to compare data of vertical ground reaction force (GRF) parameters during level walking, stair ascent and descent on three different stair inclinations and three different age groups. Twenty healthy subjects of three age groups (young 33.7 years; middle 63.6 years; old 76.5 years) were tested during the seven test conditions with 8-10 repetitions. Vertical forces were measured during two consecutive steps with force plates embedded in the walkway and the staircase. The results showed that during level walking the vertical GRF curves were very regular and repetitive, the trail-to-trial variability and left-right asymmetry of defined test parameters being around 2-5% and 3-5%. During stair ascent the vertical GRF force pattern was found to change slightly compared to level gait, but considerably compared to stair descent. On the steep stair the average vertical load increased up to 1.6 BW, and variability (5-10%) and asymmetry (5-15%) were increased significantly. The steep stair descent condition was found to be the most demanding test showing the largest variability and asymmetry and thus, the least stable gait pattern. Age was found to be a factor which should be considered, because the young age group walked faster and produced larger vertical GRF maxima during level walking and on stair ascent than the middle and old age group. Differences between the middle and old age group were found to be small. The present investigation is the first to provide normative data of GRF parameters on gait variability and symmetry of two consecutive steps during level gait and stair ambulation. It is the intention that the results of this study may be used as a basis for comparison with patient data.

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