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Wearable Airbag Technology to Mitigate Falls in Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease

Study Rationale:
People with Parkinson's disease may fall due to issues with gait and balance or weak muscles. Falling can result in serious injuries, such as a broken hip. After a fall, people may worry about falling again, resulting in less walking or exercising and a tendency to stay home instead of running errands or meeting friends. Personal airbags may reduce this worry and prevent additional injury. Smart airbags worn under clothes can sense when the user is falling, inflate quickly to cushion the hip and then gently deflate under body weight to reduce the impact of falling.

We expect that a smart, wearable airbag system that can accurately predict falls and quickly inflate will reduce hip fractures in people with Parkinson's. We also expect that wearing the airbags will make people less scared of falling, so they will be more active within their home and community.

Study Design:
Our study design involves two steps: (1) improving the airbag system so it can accurately detect falls in people with Parkinson's and (2) testing whether the system reduces injuries caused by falling. A group of 25 people with Parkinson's will wear the airbag system for six months, while another group of 25 will not. Everyone will carry a smartphone that can detect and record falls and measure activity levels. Information from the phones will tell us if (1) the airbags reduced the number of hip injuries from falls, and (2) if people wearing the airbags were more active.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson's Disease:
The airbag system may prevent people with Parkinson's from breaking their hips when they fall. Wearing the airbag may make people less scared to exercise and leave the house, which could improve physical and mental health.

Next Steps for Development:
The next step will be to have more people test the airbag system to confirm the results from this initial trial and to see if there are any negative effects from using the airbags. If further studies are successful, we will seek FDA approval to sell the system in the US.

Trial Phase:
This is a pilot study to see if the airbags work and if using airbags is realistic and helpful for people with Parkinson's.


  • Arun Jayaraman, PT, PhD

    Chicago, IL United States

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