BACKGROUND: Postural instability and the inability to regain balance during slip-induced events are the leading causes of falls on the same level in occupational environments. With the growing popularity of virtual reality (VR), individuals have the potential to be immersed in a realistic environment, exposing themselves to fall-risk hazards without the risk of injury real-world exposure may cause. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare lower extremity joint kinematics of the slipping leg during real and virtually generated slip-induced events. A secondary purpose was to investigate dynamic postural stability following acute exposures to real (REAL) and virtual (VR) environmental conditions. METHODS: A total of 14 healthy participants’ [7 males, 7 females; age: 23.46 + 3.31 years; height: 173.85 + 8.48 cm; mass: 82.19 + 11.41 kg; shoe size (men’s): 9.03 + 2.71] knee and ankle joint kinematics were compared during exposure to both REAL and VR environments. Participants then completed a series of Timed-Up-And-Go (TUG) variations (standard, cognitive, manual) at the beginning of data collection, then following exposure to each environment. Environmental exposure was selected in a counterbalanced order to prevent an order effect. Knee and ankle joint kinematics were analyzed separately using a 2 x 3 repeated measure ANOVA to compare environments as well as gait types at an alpha level of 0.05. TUG variations were also analyzed separately using a 3 x 3 repeated measures ANOVA to compare TUG variations and environment. RESULTS: No significant differences were observed for knee or ankle joint kinematics between environments or gait types. There were also no significant interactions between environments and gait types. However, significant differences were observed for TUG-C following VR environmental condition (p = 0.027). Post hoc comparisons revealed significantly lower times for TUG-C following VR exposure (p = 0.029). No significance was observed for TUG-S or TUG-M. CONCLUSION: Based on the current findings, the lack of significance in lower extremity joint kinematics, as well as the improvement in TUG-C performance following acute VR exposure to slip hazards, demonstrate the potential effectiveness of VR as a means of fall prevention training for occupational populations.

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