Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center

Fall Risk and Prosthetic Influence on Gait Biomechanics in Upper Limb Amputees

Principal Investigators: Matthew J. Major, PhD, Steven A. Gard, PhD 

Co-Investigators: John Brinkmann, CPO (NUPOC), Rebecca Stine, MS (Jesse Brown VAMC), Marc Applebaum, MD (Jesse Brown VAMC), Allen Heinemann, PhD (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago)

Student Investigator: Suzanne McConn, MS (Department of Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University)

Funded by: Department of Veterans Affairs, Rehabilitation Research and Development Grant Number 1I21RX001388

Status: In Progress

Project Purpose

Understanding interactions among increased fall risk, reduced balance confidence, and fear of falling among upper limb amputees.Natural arm dynamics in able-bodied individuals are critical for reducing the metabolic energy required to walk steadily and for recovering from a perturbation to avoid a fall, which may have significant implications for individuals with upper limb loss. Very little attention has been paid to the characteristics of gait, standing balance, and fall risk in this patient group. This study proposes to identify the level and covariates of fall risk in individuals with upper limb loss, and the effects of upper limb prosthesis use on gait and standing balance. These results will quantify a previously undocumented health hazard (i.e. increased fall risk) to persons with upper limb loss.

Through improved understanding of the impact of upper limb loss on falls and ambulation, subsequent studies may identify mechanisms of instability in this patient group, leading to rehabilitation strategies (e.g., fall recovery training) and improved prosthesis designs that facilitate efficient and safe mobility. Improving the gait and functional balance of persons with upper limb loss can increase their participation in daily activities and consequently enhance their self-sufficiency and confidence.


McConn, Suzanne (2016). "Prosthetic Influence on Gait Stability in Individuals with Upper Limb Loss. Master's Thesis, Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University. 


Major, Matthew (2016) Locomotor Stability of Upper and Lower Limb Prosthesis Users. VA Research Day, Jesse Brown VAMC, May 20, Chicago, IL.

Major MJ. (2017) Falls in Persons with Upper-Limb Loss. The 43rd Academy Annual Meeting & Scientific Symposium of the American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists (AAOP), March 1-4, Chicago, IL. 

Major MJ, McConn S, Stine R, Gard SA (2017) Pilot Study on the Effects of Upper Limb Loss and Prosthesis Use on Locomotor Stability. (poster) American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists Annual Meeting and Scientific Symposium, March 1-4, Chicago, IL. 

Major MJ, Shirvaikar T, Stine R, Gard S (2018) Effects of Wearing an Upper Limb Prosthesis on Standing Balance. 14th Annual Lewis Landsberg Research Day, April 4, 2018, Chicago, IL. 

Major MJ, Shirvaikar T, Stine R, Gard S (2018) Effects of Wearing an Upper Limb Prosthesis on Standing Balance Podium talk and poster presented at 42nd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics, Rochester, MN, August 8-11. 

Related Publications

Meeting News, Upper Limb Loss May Impair Locomotor Stability, Increase Fall Risk in, March 2, 2017.

Research Volunteer Opportunity

If you have a below-knee amputation, you may be eligible to participate in this research study. See details on Recruitment Flyer_AmpFalls.