Research into falling—primarily among the elderly--and how to reduce fall risk was the focus of the January address in the Distinguished Lecture Series in Sports Medicine at Hope College. Dr. James Richardson of the University of Michigan will presented "Neuropathic Gait: What is it and what to do about it?" Richardson noted that peripheral neuropathy is one of the most common neurologic findings in persons over 60, affecting nearly 20 percent of the age group in the U.S. Patients with neuropathy typically appear to have normal gait and mobility function, but, when challenged by a surface irregularity are unable to effectively respond and fall at a rate 15 times that of their non-affected peers. The lecture will presented biomechanical research which quantifies neuropathy-associated sensory and motor impairments at the ankle, and described how the impairments influence gait over smooth and irregular surfaces, and the ability to reliably stand on one foot.
Richardson also shared clues to the clinical recognition of functionally significant neuropathy and strategies for reducing fall risk in the affected population. Richardson is an associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, where he has been on the faculty since 1990. He is also co-director of the Electrodiagnostic Laboratory of the University of Michigan Health Systems. His previous appointments include having served as a staff physician in Rehabilitation Medicine Service with the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Ann Arbor and as medical director in Inpatient Rehabilitation Service with the University of Michigan Medical Center. He has made multiple presentations and written several articles published in professional journals concerning peripheral neuropathy and falling and balance, and has received multiple honors for his writing including the "Abstract Award"from the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine and the "Excellence in Research Writing Best Paper Award" from the Association of Academic Physiatrists, both in 2007.
Through the years he has received a variety of external grants in support of his research, and he currently holds a five-year award from the National Institutes of Health for his project
"Neuropathic Gait, Irregular Surfaces and Fall Risk." Richardson is a graduate of Miami University, and completed his M.D. at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He conducted post-doctoral training in internal medicine at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, and in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Michigan. The Distinguished Lecture Series in Sports Medicine is designed for health care professionals with an interest in physically active patients, and is intended for students, educators and clinicians alike. It is co-sponsored by Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan, Shoreline Orthopaedics, Holland Hospital Rehabilitation Services and the college.Richardson's address is the third of four lectures scheduled through the series for the 2009-10 school year. Additional information about the series may be found online at http://www.hope.edu/academic/kinesiology/athtrain/