UD researches the science of staying on your feet

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The recent wild weather has made just getting to class a science all in itself at University of Dayton.

For students like Devin Hartman, slow and steady on the ice was the plan of attack.

Sounds simple, but Kim Bigelow, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace says walking in these conditions should not be taken lightly.

“Falls are a major problem especially for older adults,” Bigelow says. “So falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury related deaths in adults age 65 and older.”

That is why Bigelow and a group of graduate and Ph.D. students are studying the science behind fall prevention here in UD’s Engineering, Wellness and Safety Lab.

One area of concentration is why do people fall, and one of the reasons is due to poor balance. Balance is actually dependent on a number of other factors including your vision, your vestibular system, which is your inner ear.

Researchers say all of those factors are compounded by changing surfaces – carpet, tile, concrete, and especially ice.

“It’s the type of footwear you may have on, just anything that may affect how your feet have contact with the floor,” says Renee Beach, a Doctorate student in Mechanical Engineering. “And that sends different signals to your brain and your brain has to intercept and decide what to do based on the type of surface you are on.”

And because ice is the trickiest surface to spot, researchers say it’s important to stay vigilant with every step.

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