Balance control when standing upright is a complex process requiring input from several partly independent mechanisms such as coordination, feedback and feedforward control, and adaptation. Acute alcohol intoxication from ethanol is recognized as a major contributor to accidental falls requiring medical care. This study aimed to investigate if intoxication at 0.06 and 0.10% blood alcohol concentration affected body alignment. Mean angular positions of the head, shoulder, hip, and knee were measured with 3D-motion analysis and compared with the ankle position in 25 healthy adults during standing with or without perturbations, and with eyes open or closed. Alcohol intoxication had significant effects on body alignment during perturbed and unperturbed stance, and on adaptation to perturbations. It induced a significantly more posterior alignment of the knees and shoulders, and a tendency for a more posterior and left deviated head alignment in perturbed stance than when sober. The impact of alcohol intoxication was most apparent on the knee alignment, where availability of visual information deteriorated the adaptation to perturbations. Thus, acute alcohol intoxication resulted in inadequate balance control strategies with increased postural rigidity and impaired adaptation to perturbations. These factors probably contribute to the increased risk of falling when intoxicated with alcohol.
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