A custom ankle foot orthosis (AFO) made by Ronkonkoma, NY-based Langer Biomechanics produced immediate improvements in postural sway and lower extremity coordination in older adults without limiting functional performance, according to a study epublished October 29 by Clinical Biomechanics.
Investigators from the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science’s Center for Lower Extremity Ambulatory Research (CLEAR) in Chicago and the Interdisciplinary Consortium on Advanced Motion Performance (iCAMP) at University of Arizona in Tucson recruited 30 ambulatory older adults (average age, 73 years) who had a history of falling in the 12 months prior to study entry. They were casted with their feet on a contoured footboard and knees at 90° to produce a custom-made Moore Balance Brace, which had a flexible open ankle posterior leaf gauntlet design to allow ankle stabilization without inhibiting sagittal plane motion.
The volunteers completed eyes-open and eyes-closed static balance tests, functional reach assessments, and timed up and go tests while wearing validated kinematic sensors in standardized shoes with and without bilateral orthoses, as well as barefoot trials for the eyes-open and eyes-closed balance tests and functional reach tests.
During eyes-open balance trials, the orthoses reduced center of mass sway an average of 49% and 40.7%, respectively, compared with barefoot and shoes-alone conditions. During the eyes-closed trials, reductions were greater, averaging 65.9% and 47.8% compared with barefoot and shoes only. The orthoses didn’t limit functional reach distance or timed up and go completion times. Medial-lateral postural coordination while reaching improved significantly with the orthoses compared with barefoot and shoes-alone conditions.
More study is needed to determine if these benefits are retained and translate to fewer falls, the researchers said.