Fall detection in individuals with lower limb amputations using mobile phones: Machine learning enhances robustness for real-world applications

Nicholas Shawen, Luca Lonini*, Chaithanya Krishna Mummidisetty, Mark V. Albert, Konrad Kording, Arun Jayaraman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Automatically detecting falls with mobile phones provides an opportunity for rapid response to injuries and better knowledge of what precipitated the fall and its consequences. This is beneficial for populations that are prone to falling, such as people with lower limb amputations. Prior studies have focused on fall detection in able-bodied individuals using data from a laboratory setting. Such approaches may provide a limited ability to detect falls in amputees and in real-world scenarios. Objective: The aim was to develop a classifier that uses data from able-bodied individuals to detect falls in individuals with a lower limb amputation, while they freely carry the mobile phone in different locations and during free-living. Methods: We obtained 861 simulated indoor and outdoor falls from 10 young control (non-amputee) individuals and 6 individuals with a lower limb amputation. In addition, we recorded a broad database of activities of daily living, including data from three participants’ free-living routines. Sensor readings (accelerometer and gyroscope) from a mobile phone were recorded as participants freely carried it in three common locations—on the waist, in a pocket, and in the hand. A set of 40 features were computed from the sensors data and four classifiers were trained and combined through stacking to detect falls. We compared the performance of two population-specific models, trained and tested on either able-bodied or amputee participants, with that of a model trained on able-bodied participants and tested on amputees. A simple threshold-based classifier was used to benchmark our machine-learning classifier. Results: The accuracy of fall detection in amputees for a model trained on control individuals (sensitivity: mean 0.989, 1.96*standard error of the mean [SEM] 0.017; specificity: mean 0.968, SEM 0.025) was not statistically different (P=.69) from that of a model trained on the amputee population (sensitivity: mean 0.984, SEM 0.016; specificity: mean 0.965, SEM 0.022). Detection of falls in control individuals yielded similar results (sensitivity: mean 0.979, SEM 0.022; specificity: mean 0.991, SEM 0.012). A mean 2.2 (SD 1.7) false alarms per day were obtained when evaluating the model (vs mean 122.1, SD 166.1 based on thresholds) on data recorded as participants carried the phone during their daily routine for two or more days. Machine-learning classifiers outperformed the threshold-based one (P<.001). Conclusions: A mobile phone-based fall detection model can use data from non-amputee individuals to detect falls in individuals walking with a prosthesis. We successfully detected falls when the mobile phone was carried across multiple locations and without a predetermined orientation. Furthermore, the number of false alarms yielded by the model over a longer period of time was reasonably low. This moves the application of mobile phone-based fall detection systems closer to a real-world use case scenario.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere151
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Fall detection
  • Lower limb amputation
  • Machine learning
  • Mobile phones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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