An Initial Passive Phase That Limits the Time to Recover and Emphasizes the Role of Proprioceptive Information
Article dans une revue avec comité de lecture
In the present experiments, multiple balance perturbations were provided by unpredictable support-surface translations in various directions and velocities. The aim of this study was to distinguish the passive and the active phases during the pre-impact period of a fall. It was hypothesized that it should be feasible if one uses a specific quantitative kinematic analysis to evaluate the dispersion of the body segments trajectories across trials. Moreover, a multi-joint kinematical model was created for each subject, based on a new 3-D minimally invasive stereoradiographic X-ray images to assess subject-specific geometry and inertial parameters. The simulations allowed discriminating between the contributions of the passive (inertia-induced properties) and the active (neuromuscular response) components during falls. Our data show that there is limited time to adjust the way one fall from a standing position. We showed that the pre-impact period is truncated of 200 ms. During the initial part of a fall, the observed trajectory results from the interaction between the destabilizing external force and the body: inertial properties intrinsic to joints, ligaments and musculotendinous system have then a major contribution, as suggested for the regulation of static upright stance. This passive phase is later followed by an active phase, which consists of a corrective response to the postural perturbation. We believe that during a fall from standing height, it takes about 300 ms for postural responses to start correcting the body trajectory, while the impact is expected to occur around 700 ms. It has been argued that this time is sufficient to change the way one falls and that this makes it possible to apply safer ways of falling, for example by using martial arts fall techniques. Also, our results imply visual and vestibular information are not congruent with the beginning of the on-going fall. This consequence is to be noted as subjects prepare to the impact on the basis of sensory information, which would be uniquely mainly of proprioceptive origin at the fall onset. One limitation of the present analysis is that no EMG was included so far but these data are the subject of a future study.
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