The mechanical properties of the heel pad in elderly adults

The shock absorbing characteristics of the heel pad in vivo were examined in two groups of active elderly individuals whose ages ranged between 60 and 67 years (n = 10) and between 71 and 86 years (n = 10). For comparative purposes, young adults (n = 10) aged between 17 and 30 years were also examined. A free-fall impact testing device which consisted of an instrumented shaft (mass 5 kg), accelerometer and position detection transducer was used to obtain deceleration and deformation of the heel during impact. The data were obtained from impact velocities of 0.57 m.s-1 (slow) and 0.94 m.s-1 (fast). Peak values of the deceleration and deformation, as well as the time to these peaks from onset of impact, and energy absorption were evaluated. At the slow impact velocity, no age effect was found for the parameters examined except for the energy absorption. At the fast impact velocity, there was higher peak deceleration and smaller deformation for the elderly than for the younger adults. The energy absorbed was less for the elderly than for the younger adults. It was concluded that the capacity for shock absorbency of the heel pad declines with age.

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