Effects of diabetes mellitus on step length and minimum toe clearance adaptation

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Martin, Suzanne ORCID: 0000-0001-8363-097X, Taylor, Simon ORCID: 0000-0002-4548-055X, Shideler, Blynn, Ogrin, Rajna and Begg, Rezaul ORCID: 0000-0002-3195-8591 (2023) Effects of diabetes mellitus on step length and minimum toe clearance adaptation. BioMedical Engineering Online, 22. ISSN 1475-925X


Background: Adaptive gait involves the ability to adjust the leading foot in response to the requirement of dynamic environments during walking. Accurate adjustments of the minimum toe clearance (MTC) height and step length can prevent older people from falling when walking and responding to hazards. Although older people with diabetes fall more frequently than healthy older adults, no previous studies have quantified their adaptive gait abilities. This study aimed to investigate the effects of diabetes mellitus on step length and MTC height adjustments using a non-immersive virtual-reality system. Methods: Sixteen young adults (26 ± 5 years, 7 females), 16 healthy older adults (68 ± 5 years, 6 females), and 16 older adults with diabetes (70 ± 5 years, 6 females) completed adaptability tests while walking on a treadmill. A computer system visualised a continuous real-time signal of absolute step length and MTC on a monitor. Each person responded to four discrete participant-specific step length and MTC visual targets that were presented on the same signal. Tasks were to match the peaks of interest on each signal to presented targets. Targets were 10% longer or shorter than the mean baseline step length, and 2.5 cm, and 3.5 cm higher than the mean baseline MTC. When a target was displayed, it remained unchanged for 10 consecutive foot displacement adaptation attempts. Then, the target was removed and a new target or the same target was present after 10 consecutive steps and remained for 10 steps. Each target was randomly presented three times (3 × 10). Step length and MTC height adjustments in response to targets were measured and compared among groups. Results: Mean preferred walking speeds were not different among groups significantly when no targets were presented on the monitor in baseline walking. However, when participants walked on a treadmill while attempting to match step lengths or MTC heights to displayed targets on the monitor, the group with diabetes had reduced step length and MTC adjustments compared with other groups significantly. They showed greater errors (differences between their step lengths/MTC heights and presented targets) on the monitor. Conclusions: This study quantified reduced abilities for older individuals with diabetes to adjust both step length and MTC in response to stimuli compared to healthy older counterparts. Reduced step length and MTC height adjustments can increase falls in at risk populations. The presented virtual-reality system has merits for assessing and training step and MTC adaptation.

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Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/46972
DOI 10.1186/s12938-023-01082-2
Official URL https://biomedical-engineering-online.biomedcentra...
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4207 Sports science and exercise
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords gait, diabetes, toe clearance, minimum toe clearance, MTC, fall prevention
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