To determine whether decreased lower extremity strength contributes to trip-related falls in older adults. A cross-sectional sample of older adults were safety-harnessed and tripped while walking using a concealed, mechanical obstacle. Lower extremity strength was compared between trip outcome groups. A biomechanics research laboratory. Seventy-nine healthy, community-dwelling adults aged 65 and older (50 women). Ankle, knee, and hip flexion and extension strength were measured isometrically and isokinetically. Measured strengths were subjected to a factor analysis. Strength factor scores were compared between those who recovered from the trip and those who fell by three previously identified mechanisms: during-step, after-step, and elevating-response falls. Seven common factors, one associated with each direction of exertion at each joint and one with the time rate of moment increase, explained 88% of the variance in measured strength. The during-step (n=5) fallers were significantly stronger in the ankle extension (plantarflexion), knee flexion, overall extension, and total strength factors than those who successfully recovered using a similar, lowering strategy (n=26). The elevating-response faller (n=1) was stronger in the plantarflexion and overall extension factors than most of those who recovered using a similar, elevating strategy (n=11). Two of three after-step fallers were among the weakest subjects tested. Weak older adults and the strongest older adults may be at greater risk of falling from a trip, although by different mechanisms. High strength may increase the likelihood of a during-step or elevating-response fall; decreased strength may increase the likelihood of an after-step fall.

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