Despite the documented health hazards associated with stair descent, the mechanisms of falling on stairs remain relatively unexamined. The objectives of this study were to define kinematic variables that could be used to describe foot-stair spatial relationships during the mid-stair phase of stair descent, and to investigate the effects of various visual and environmental conditions on those variables in a group of 36 healthy women between the ages of 55 and 70. Foot clearance and foot placement were measured through high-speed film analysis. Clearance between the foot and the stair during swing phase was small under all visual conditions. Degraded visual acuity had a significant effect on cadence, foot placement, and foot clearance, but visual surround conditions did not. The kinematic variables used in this experiment may be helpful in future studies to assess the results of interventions aimed at reducing the frequency of falls on stairs.
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