Safe Landing Strategies During a Fall: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2017 Apr;98(4):783-794. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2016.08.460. Epub 2016 Aug 31.


Objectives: To systematically synthesize information on safe landing strategies for a fall, and quantitatively examine the effects of the strategies to reduce the risk of injury from a fall.

Data sources: PubMed, Web of Science, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and Cochrane Library.

Study selection: Databases were searched using the combinations of keywords of "falls," "strategy," "impact," and "load." Randomized controlled trials, cohort studies, pre-post studies, and cross-sectional studies were included.

Data extraction: Fall strategies were extracted and categorized by falling direction. Measurements of impact loads that reflect the risk of injuries were extracted (eg, impact velocity, impact force, fall duration, impact angle). Hedges' g was used as effect size to quantify the effect of a protective landing strategy to reduce the impact load.

Data synthesis: A total of 7 landing strategies (squatting, elbow flexion, forward rotation, martial arts rolling, martial arts slapping, relaxed muscle, stepping) in 13 studies were examined. In general, all strategies, except for the martial arts slapping technique, significantly reduced impact load (g values=.73-2.70). Squatting was an efficient strategy to reduce impact in backward falling (g=1.77), while elbow flexion with outstretched arms was effective in forward falling (g=.82). Also, in sideways falling strategies, martial arts rolling (g=2.70) and forward rotation (g=.82) were the most efficient strategies to reduce impact load.

Conclusions: The results showed that landing strategies have a significant effect on reducing impact load during a fall and might be effective to reduce the impact load of falling. The current study also highlighted limitations of the previous studies that focused on a young population and self-initiated falls. Further investigation with elderly individuals and unexpected falls is necessary to verify the effectiveness and suitability of the strategies for at-risk populations in real-life falls.

Keywords: Accidental falls; Movement; Wounds and injuries.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Martial Arts
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control*