Biomechanical simulations of forward fall arrests: Effects of upper extremity arrest strategy, gender and aging-related declines in muscle strength

Kurt M. DeGoede, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
James A. Ashton-Miller, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Computer simulation was used to predict the extent to which age-related muscle atrophy may adversely affect the safe arrest of a forward fall onto the arms. The biomechanical factors affecting the separate risks for wrist fracture or head impact were examined using a two-dimensional, 5-link, forward dynamic model. The hypothesis was tested in older females that age-related loss in muscular strength renders the use of the arms ineffective in arresting a forward fall without either a torso impact exceeding 0.5m/s or distal forearm loads sufficient to fracture the wrist. The results demonstrate that typical age-related decline in arm muscle strength substantially reduces the ability to arrest a forward fall without the elbows buckling and, therefore, a risk of torso and/or head impact. The model predicted that older women with below-average bone strength risk a Colles fracture when arresting typical falls, particularly with an extended arm. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.