Question Sheet: Taking a Spill for Science


Before reading:

  1. Stand on one foot. What do you do to maintain your balance?
  2. Why do you think that people over the age of 65 are more likely to fall than

    younger people are?

During reading:

  1. What is the mission of the Human Movement and Balance Laboratory at the

    University of Pittsburgh?

  2. Why do people tend to fall more often as they grow old?
  3. By what age do healthy kids have a good sense of balance?
  4. How could you change the way you walk to get across a slippery floor safely?
  5. What can physical therapists do to help people with balance problems?
  6. What sort of training can someone who has trouble in cluttered environments

    receive to become more comfortable and less likely to fall in such settings?

After reading:

  1. Think about your school building. Where are people most likely to fall?
  2. Design an experiment about balance. How would you measure someone’s sense of

    balance? What variables might you consider in trying to determine the factors

    that affect someone’s sense of balance?

  3. Gather several friends and see which ones are good at maintaining their

    balance while standing on one foot. What might you hypothesize about what

    qualities make for “good balance”?

  4. Practice standing on one foot. Time how long you can maintain this stance.

    Under what conditions are your times better? What could you do to improve your


  5. If you were conducting an experiment like the ones at the University of

    Pittsburgh’s Human Movement and Balance Laboratory, you would need to have your

    subjects sign a “release form” warning them about what could happen to them in

    the experiment. What do you think that you should tell them? Would you be

    willing to serve as a subject for such an experiment? Why or why not?


Statistics kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, in the United States, white men have the highest fall-related death rates, followed by white women, black men, and black women. What factors might account for these differences? The data also show that women are four times more likely than men to suffer hip fractures, and that people ages 85 years and older are 10 to 15 times more likely to sustain hip fractures than are people ages 60 to 65? What do you think might account for these patterns? See (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).


  1. An older person whom you know has just taken a serious fall, and he or she

    is nervous about coming to visit you. Write a letter encouraging him or her to

    come. How would you reassure this person? What would you do to make the visit


  2. In a few paragraphs, describe a fall that you have had (or almost had). When

    and how did it occur? What happened? Include what it felt like during and after

    the fall.


The odds of dying by tripping, slipping, or stumbling on a surface is 1 in 445,729 in any given year. Given that the current population of the United States is 298,198,041, how many people would be likely to die from a fall this year. See (National Safety Council).