Posterior single-stepping thresholds are prospectively related to falls in older women

Jeremy R. Crenshaw, Kathie A. Bernhardt, Elizabeth J. Atkinson, Sara J. Achenbach, Sundeep Khosla, Shreyasee Amin, Kenton R. Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Falls are a leading cause of injury in older women. Stepping thresholds quantify balance-reaction capabilities. It is unclear how such evaluations predict falls in comparison to, or as a complement to, other objective measures of gait, standing postural control, strength, and balance confidence. Aims: The objective of this study was to determine if stepping thresholds are prospectively related to falls in older women. Methods: For this prospective cohort study, 125 ambulatory, community-dwelling women, age ≥ 65 years were recruited. Using a treadmill to deliver perturbations to standing participants, we determined anteroposterior single- and multiple-stepping thresholds. Here, thresholds represent the minimum perturbation magnitudes that consistently evoke one step or multiple steps. In addition, gait kinematics, obstacle-crossing kinematics, standing sway measures, unipedal stance time, the functional reach, lower extremity isometric strength, grip strength, balance confidence, and fall history were evaluated. Falls were prospectively recorded for one year. Results: Seventy-four participants (59%) fell at least once. Posterior single-stepping thresholds were the only outcome that predicted future fall status (OR = 1.50, 95% CI 1.01–2.28; AUC =.62). A multivariate approach added postural sway with eyes closed as a second predictive variable, although predictive abilities were not meaningfully improved. Discussion: These results align with the previous evidence that reactive balance is a prospective indicator of fall risk. Unlike previous studies, strength scaled to body size did not contribute to fall prediction. Conclusion: Posterior single-stepping thresholds held a significant relationship with future fall status. This relationship was independent of, and superior to that of, other measures of standing balance, gait, strength, and balance confidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2507-2515
Number of pages9
JournalAging Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Balance
  • Balance reactions
  • Gait
  • Standing sway
  • Strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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