Gait, Balance & Falls

Biomechanical and physiological evaluation of walking and running
The Gait, Balance and Falls Group undertakes interdisciplinary research focused on improving gait and mobility function.

Current research projects involve determining the effects on gait and balance of the following:

  • movement system constraints (eg ageing, injury, disease)
  • environmental constraints (eg surface hazards).

Some of the major ongoing projects of the group are:

  • Biofeedback for Gait Training
  • Program in Assistive Technologies (PATI)
  • Insoles for reducing injuries during walking
  • Slipping Resistance of Commercial Flooring Products
  • Evaluating Inertial Sensors
  • Footwear Design.

Research in this area is conducted in the Biomechanics Laboratory.

Our researchers

The group is multidisciplinary, and brings together 12 members including academic staff and higher degree by research students.

Our research backgrounds are in areas such as:

  • biomechanics
  • exercise science
  • engineering
  • motor control
  • physiotherapy
  • computing.

Staff

Staff participating in the Gait, Balance and Falls research group include:

Students

Students participating in the Gait, Balance and Falls research group include:

  • Calum Downie, PhD
  • Myrla Reis Sales, PhD
  • Braveena Santhiranayagam, PhD.

Gait, Balance & Fall Biomechanics research groups

Biofeedback for Gait Training

Biofeedback is the provision of information, most commonly visual or auditory, of internal biological processes that would not otherwise be sensed.

The theoretical and practical significance of biofeedback is in applications such as neurological rehabilitation, where it can augment, or substitute for, the lost information provided by normally functioning sensory systems.

The group is undertaking a major National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funded project in collaboration with two Melbourne hospitals (Royal Melbourne and Austin Hospital) using visually presented biofeedback of foot-ground clearance to re-train walking in stroke patients. 

Program in Assistive Technologies (PATI)

A major component of the group’s research is administered and managed under the organisational structure of a Victoria University research and innovation program – PATI.

The primary focus is evaluating unpowered lower-limb exoskeletons designed to assist locomotor function in high-stress activities such as heavy-load carrying.

By bringing together the resources of the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group, Victoria University and The University of Melbourne, PATI establishes nationally recognised expertise in the biomechanical and physiological requirements and performance of assistive technologies.

The technological and scientific research underpinning this project extends to applications in many areas, including:

  • emergency services
  • security services
  • physically demanding occupations such as building construction and rehabilitation. 

Insoles for reducing injuries during walking

Mobility is important to keep older adults (aged over 65 years old) healthy.

However, walking can lead to falls, acute and long-term overuse injuries, and lower limb degeneration (for example ulcers, foot deformities and joint pain).

One in every three older adults falls every year, and 9% to 20% of those incidences result in severe injuries. It is therefore important for older adults to walk both actively and safely.

Researchers within ISEAL Gait, Balance and Falls research group have developed a shoe insole that provides a specific incline on the footwear-insole interface to modify ankle joint orientation inside the footwear (for example a shoe).

Gait can therefore be controlled in a way that can reduce the risk of injuries caused by tripping, falling (for example through loss of balance) and lower-limb joint injuries during locomotion, such as walking. 

This invention has been patented, and further developments are expected. A number of industries are involved in this research in commercialising this device for wider use in the community.

Slipping Resistance of Commercial Flooring Products

A research project is being conducted in which biomechanical measurements are made when participants walk on a force plate integrated treadmill wearing iTV Goggles that create a 3D virtual reality (VR) environment simulating various floor surfaces and visibility conditions.

Force plates capture the foot-ground reaction forces, showing how the traction demand varies according to the perceived environment. Full body movements and centre of mass (COM) motion are recorded simultaneously using an Optotrak movement analysis system. 

The flooring samples have known wet-pendulum slip resistance and the corresponding traction demand data can then be compared with the pendulum measurements of available traction. This enables pendulum results to provide a better indication of the relative risk of slipping on floors.

Such data will enable better design of the built environment as well as optimising the management of existing flooring products. 

Evaluating Inertial Sensors

We support industry projects that aim to predict biomechanical parameters using inertial sensor technology.

These parameters include body position, body segment range of motion and ground-reaction forces.

A current research study is being conducted to evaluate the measurement accuracy of inertial sensors to predict ground-reaction forces during walking and running at various speeds and foot angles at impact. 

Footwear Design

We support footwear-industry projects that aim to improve foot function and movement agility (minimisation of injury risk) through informed evidence-based design of sports footwear.

These studies combine:

  • materials engineering
  • biomechanics
  • foot-bone scanning and modelling
  • ultra-sound measurement of lower limb muscle-tendon structure.