View Full Version : summary: Body motion when falling.

Terry Fischer
09-03-1997, 01:42 AM
On July 29, 1997 I posted the following:
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I've been asked to look at a case in which an individual reported that
he fell down a flight of stairs. When found, he was laying face down
a relatively long distance from the base of the stairs.

I have been searching for reference material on the motion of
individuals when falling but have come up dry. The closest references
I have found address the prevention of slip and fall injuries.

I would appreciate any references which would aid in my assessment.

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I wish to thank everyone that responded. Below are copies of the
responses I receive.

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I worked at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington,
DC where the rehabilitation engineering department attempted a study
on falling in association with long leg braces. The contact person is
Tom Dang. I do not know the number off hand, but the address is 102
Irving Street, Washington, DC 20010. He might be able to help.

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Try looking for papers written by Richard G. Snyder in the 60's and
70's. He and Clyde C. Snow investigated a number of freefall
accidents from bridges and other structures in the early days of
trying to understand impact trauma in the transportation industry.
Drs Snyder and Snow worked at the Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI),
FAA in Oklahoma City and Dr. Snyder left to be part of the Highway
Safety Research Insitute (HSRI), The University of Michigan, now
called the University of Michgan Transportation Research Institute
(UMTRI). The papers are probably published in a journal such as
Aviation Medicine or as SAE technical papers or similar sources. You
might find a case study based upon similar circumstances in one of
their publications.

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You are right in that there have been few publications on trajectories
of people falling on stairs, largely because of difficulty of
specifying initial conditions. I would look for recent citations of
the following (or contact John Archea directly):

Archea, J.C.,
``Environmental factors associated with stair accidents by the
Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 1(3): 555-570, 1985.
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Certain falls (e.g., falls from standing height) have been well
described in the literature. After that, things get pretty chaotic (in
the mathematical sense!)

You might be better off looking at the injury pattern and trying to
relate that back to the alleged accident scenario. This may involve a
biomechanical analysis. We have cosiderable experience in this area if
you need help.


John Trimble, Ph.D.
Packer Engineering, Inc.
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I don't know anything about this field, but I remember having seen one
abstract about this topic in the European Society of Biomechanics
congress in Rome, 1992. I've been looking up the reference for you in
the proceedings of this conference :
Y.E. Toshev,"Fall of the human body : criminological aspect.",
Proceedings of the Eight meeting of the ESB, Rome, Italy, 1992, p 378.
The authors' address at the time of the meeting was : Toshev Yuri
Inst. of Mechanics and Biomechanics
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Acad. G. Bontchev Str. Block 4
1113 Sofia, Bulgaria
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By searching the following two authors you could found many valuable

1. Albert B. Schultz
2. Mark Grabiner

Good luck.
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We have been conducting for some years laboratory based occupational
biomech/ergo research studies where we simulate slips and near fall
(we do not let subjects fall by using a harness) under various
lighting conds, floor conditions and task demands. During these
testings we measure body segment motions with multi-camera system for
quantitating (by calcualting a series of biomechanical indices defined
with respect to subject's base of support) potential loss of balance.

I am not sure whether you are interested in the above info;
nevertheless you can get our list of relevant publications by visiting
our Home Page listed below. (In particular, you may find the following
reference of some interest to you: Wang B., Bhattacharya, A.,
Bagchee, A., and Wang, W., "Kinematic Methods for quantitating loss of
balance while negotiating a curved path on a slippery surface" J. Of
Testing and Evaluation Vol. 25, No.1, January 1997, pp 135-142.)

While we haven't had the opportunity to study the body motion
associated with loss of balance during stair climbing, our
Fall/Stability Lab is certainly equipped to address this issue as a
potential future project.

Hope this is of some help to you. If you need to contact me please
feel free to reach me.

Best regards

------------------------------------------------------ Amit
Bhattacharya, Ph.D, CPE Biomechanics Ergonomics bhattaat@uc.edu
Research Laboratories Ph: (513) 558-0503
Dept of Environ Health Fax: (513) 558-2263 University of
Cincinnati, OH 45267-0056