Low stiffness floors can attenuate fall-related femoral impact forces by up to 50% without substantially impairing balance in older women

Accid Anal Prev. 2009 May;41(3):642-50. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2009.03.001. Epub 2009 Mar 26.


Low stiffness floors such as carpet appear to decrease hip fracture risk by providing a modest degree of force attenuation during falls without impairing balance. It is unknown whether other compliant floors can more effectively reduce impact loads without coincident increases in fall risk. We used a hip impact simulator to assess femoral neck force for four energy-absorbing floors (SmartCell, SofTile, Firm Foam, Soft Foam) compared to a rigid floor. We also assessed the influence of these floors on balance/mobility in 15 elderly women. We observed differences in the mean attenuation in peak femoral neck force provided by the SmartCell (24.5%), SofTile (47.2%), Firm Foam (76.6%), and Soft Foam (52.4%) floors. As impact velocity increased from 2 to 4m/s, force attenuation increased for SmartCell (from 17.3% to 33.7%) and SofTile (from 44.9% to 51.2%), but decreased for the Firm Foam (from 87.0% to 64.5%) and Soft Foam (from 66.1% to 37.9%) conditions. Regarding balance, there were no significant differences between the rigid, SmartCell, and SofTile floors in proportion of successful trials, Get Up and Go time, balance confidence or utility ratings. SofTile, Firm Foam, and Soft Foam caused significant increases (when compared to the rigid floor) in postural sway in the anterior-posterior and medial-lateral directions during standing. However, SmartCell increased sway only in the anterior-posterior direction. This study demonstrates that two commercially available compliant floors can attenuate femoral impact force by up to 50% while having only limited influence on balance in older women, and supports development of clinical trials to test their effectiveness in high-risk settings.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Compressive Strength
  • Female
  • Femoral Fractures / prevention & control*
  • Floors and Floorcoverings*
  • Humans
  • Postural Balance*
  • Protective Devices