Influence of fear of falling on anticipatory postural control of medio-lateral stability during rapid leg flexion

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Apr;111(4):611-20. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1680-7. Epub 2010 Oct 12.


During leg flexion from erect posture, postural stability is organized in advance during "anticipatory postural adjustments" (APA). During these APA, inertial forces are generated that propel the centre of gravity (CoG) laterally towards stance leg side. This study examined how fear of falling (FoF) may influence this anticipatory postural control of medio-lateral (ML) stability. Ten young healthy participants performed a series of leg flexions at maximal velocity from low and high surface heights (6 and 66 cm above ground, respectively). In this latter condition with increased FoF, stance foot was placed at the lateral edge of the support surface to induce maximal postural threat. Results showed that the amplitude of ML inertial forces generated during APA decreased with FoF; this decrease was compensated by an increase in APA duration so that the CoG position at time of swing foot-off was located further towards stance leg side. With these changes in ML APA, the CoG was propelled in the same final (unipodal) position above stance foot as in condition with low FoF. These results contrast with those obtained in the literature during quiet standing which showed that FoF did not have any influence on the ML component of postural control. It is proposed that ML APA are modified with increased FoF, in such a way that the risk of a sideway fall induced by the large CoG motion is attenuated.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Adult
  • Anticipation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Movement / physiology
  • Perception / physiology
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Young Adult