Motion of the whole body's center of mass when stepping over obstacles of different heights

Li Shan Chou, Kenton R. Kaufman, Robert H. Brey, Louis F. Draganich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Tripping over obstacles and imbalance during gait were reported as two of the most common causes of falls in the elderly. Imbalance of the whole body during obstacle crossing may cause inappropriate movement of the lower extremities and result in foot-obstacle contact. Thus, this study was performed to investigate the effect of obstacle height on the motion of the whole body's center of mass (COM) and its interaction with the center of pressure (COP) of the stance foot while negotiating obstacles. Six healthy young adults were instructed to perform unobstructed level walking and to step over obstacles of heights corresponding to 2.5, 5, 10, and 15% of the subject's height, all at a comfortable self-selected speed while walking barefoot. A 13-link biomechanical model of the human body was used to compute the kinematics of the whole body's COM. Stepping over the higher obstacles resulted in significantly greater ranges of motion of the COM in the anterior-posterior and vertical directions, a greater velocity of the COM in the vertical direction, and a greater anterior-posterior distance between the COM and COP. In contrast, the motion of the COM in the medial-lateral direction was less likely to be affected when negotiating obstacles of different heights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-26
Number of pages10
JournalGait and Posture
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Balance
  • Center of mass
  • Gait
  • Obstacle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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