Dr. Andrew Laing

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Associate Member

Director, Injury Biomechanics and Aging Laboratory
Assistant Professor, Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo

Research Interests

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Are there differences in the risk of injury between the old and the young? This is what Dr. Laing seeks to answer. He looks at the effect of age on the relationships between biomechanics, human health, and injury prevention, with the understanding that aging is one key difference in health outcomes between young and old adults. Because the rates of SCI are highest for young adults and those over the age of 65, Dr. Laing focuses on ways to reduce injury for both young and older adults. The causes of SCI also change with age: young people often suffer SCI due to motor vehicle or sport-related accidents, while in old age SCI is more commonly due to falls. Accordingly, Dr. Laing’s research focuses both on impact biomechanics and issues related to balance control and fall prevention.

Dr. Laing is an Associate Member at ICORD. At the University of Waterloo, he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, and Director of the Injury Biomechanics and Aging Laboratory.

His work contributes to existing knowledge about age-specific injuries and injury prevention across the lifespan. For example, Dr. Laing is working on ‘safety flooring’ systems which could significantly reduce the risk of fall-related injuries, including SCI and traumatic brain injuries. His research has also examined the efficacy of hip protectors which reduce fall-related hip injuries.

Dr. Laing enjoys working with ICORD because of its multidisciplinary approach to addressing health-related research. He feels that the strength of ICORD lies in its exceptional breadth of researcher expertise, the centralized location of equipment, and the spirit of collaboration between members and stakeholder groups.

Dr. Laing’s interest in injury prevention research comes from personal experience. Early in his career, his grandfather fell and broke his hip and it changed both of their worlds. His grandparents moved into a nursing home and, as a result, their independence, general health, and quality of life suffered. This experience motivated Dr. Laing to study biomechanical approaches for preventing hip fractures. He subsequently realized the huge impact of spinal cord injuries across the lifespan. The memory of his grandfather’s fall continues to motivate Dr. Laing to study ways to improve people’s health throughout their lives.

Recent Collaborations:

Dr. Laing is collaborating with a team funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to develop Technology for Injury Prevention in Seniors (TIPS). These innovative technologies will help prevent fall-related injuries in older adults.

He is also part of the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) which links research, training, and practice to enhance care and quality of life for seniors.

Through the Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD), Dr. Laing collaborates with other researchers towards the development of interventions to reduce the risk of workplace injuries.

Major Findings:

Hip protectors are a promising strategy for preventing hip fractures, but they are only effective if users are willing to wear them. Traditional hip protectors are hard and uncomfortable but newer models are softer and therefore more comfortable to wear. Dr. Laing investigated how well these soft shell protectors reduced the force of impacts during falls. In a follow-up study, Dr. Laing addressed the need for biomechanical testing standards by designing a fall impact simulator with a pelvis model resembling the bones of elderly women. He used the simulator to assess how the effectiveness of soft shell hip protectors was affected by different variables, and found the soft shell protectors to be superior to the older style of hard shell protectors.

Dr. Laing’s research also assessed the ability of different floorings to reduce the impact of a fall without increasing the risk of falls by impairing balance. He found that low-stiffness floors can reduce impact by as much as 50% without impairing balance. Due to this research, these floorings are now undergoing clinical tests in high-risk settings such as nursing homes.

Techniques employed in the lab:

  • 3D motion capture system
  • Balance perturbations
  • Electromyography
  • High speed cameras
  • Mechanical impact simulators (e.g. drop towers, impact pendulums)

Affiliation with organizations and societies:

  • Canadian Society for Biomechanics (CSB)
  • Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD)
  • Research Institute for Aging (RIA)

Current Lab Members

Masters Students Ph.D. Students
Shivam Bhan Iris Levine
Elora Brenneman
Jade Chen
Michael Glinka
Christine Ma
Meagan Warnica

Current Opportunities in the Lab

Yes, please contact Dr. Laing.

Recent publications

  • Cleworth, TW, Perlman, C, Killingbeck, J, Laing, AC. 2024. Retrospective Analysis of Circumstances of Falls and Related Injuries across Levels of Care in Older Adult Retirement Home Facilities.. Can J Aging. doi: 10.1017/S0714980824000047.
  • Cleworth, T, Tondat, A, Goomer, K, Kalra, M, Laing, AC. 2024. Effects of flooring on static and dynamic balance in young and older adults.. Gait Posture. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2023.09.004.
  • Dapaah, D et al.. 2023. Fracture Toughness: Bridging the Gap Between Hip Fracture and Fracture Risk Assessment.. Curr Osteoporos Rep. doi: 10.1007/s11914-023-00789-4.
  • Town, CM et al.. 2023. Predicting soft tissue thicknesses overlying the iliac crests and greater trochanters of younger and older adults.. PLoS One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0283012.
  • Barrett, JM et al.. 2023. Head supported mass, moment of inertia, neck loads and stability: A simulation study.. J Biomech. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2022.111416.
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