Sensitivity of Apple Watch fall detection feature among wheelchair users

Libak Abou, Alexander Fliflet, Lina Hawari, Peter Presti, Jacob J. Sosnoff, Harshal P. Mahajan, Mikaela L. Frechette, Laura A. Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A reliable fall detection device is crucial to minimize long-term consequences of falls among wheelchair users. This study examines the sensitivity of Apple Watch to detect intentional falls from a wheelchair. Twenty-five able bodied (age: 21.9 ± 2.5 years) participated in a protocol in which they intentionally fell out of a wheelchair in a laboratory setting. Each participant wore an Apple Watch Series 5 and performed 3 falls in the forward, right and left sideways, and backward directions onto a crash pad totaling 12 falls each. The Apple Watch was manually checked after each fall to determine if the device registered a fall. From 300 fall trials captured, the Apple Watch detected 14 falls showing a sensitivity of 4.7%, a false negative rate of 95.3%. Logistic regression showed that participant’s height, impact force, lower limb functioning, and fall direction are parameters that may influence the ability of the Apple Watch to detect falls from a wheelchair. The Apple Watch fall detection feature presented with a very poor sensitivity to detect intentional falls from a wheelchair among able bodied young adults. Due to the high incidence and consequences of falls, a reliable fall detection device specific for wheelchair users is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-625
Number of pages7
JournalAssistive Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2022


  • Apple Watch
  • falls
  • sensitivity
  • technology
  • wheelchair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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