Tech by VICE

Here Is a Scientific Study About How Crappy Humans Are at Walking

We really don't have the hang of this.

by Michael Byrne
Mar 10 2016, 2:00pm

Image: Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock

One may be surprised to learn that an active locus of scientific research is college students falling down. You know: tripping, stumbling, taking a real digger. Indeed, scientists, more than one of them, are very interested in this phenomenon and why young people seem to have such a hard time walking in the first place.

The thing is that, despite our many years of practice and adaptation, humans are kind of bad at getting around on two legs. We manage pretty well most of the time, but as the authors of a new study in Human Movement Science note, falls are the third leading cause of injuries for people between the ages 18 and 35. So, while falling would appear to be a pretty common feature of human mobility, the study authors wanted to take a higher resolution look at the phenomenon. To that end, they conducted daily surveys of 94 undergraduate students at Purdue University, querying them about any slips, trips, or falls occurring within the previous 24 period.

The results? People falling all over the goddamn place. 52 percent of survey respondents fell within the study period (16 weeks). 58 percent of those falls occurred while walking. 48 percent of the time people slipped, while 25 percent of the time they tripped. 4 percent of the time, falls resulted in injuries requiring medical attention. Ice was far and away the most common culprit, but a few texting incidents did occur.

"The high fall and injury rate in a short interval reflects the inherent instability of bipedal locomotion and indicates that falls are not a trivial problem for young adults," the authors conclude.

So, there. I don't actually know what to do with this information because it sure seems like people are just going to keep falling so long as there are ice and sidewalk cracks around, but I guess we can feel less stupid about it when it does happen. Everyone else is falling too, according to science.

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