TODAY   |  July 25, 2013

Are some people (like Savannah) naturally clumsy?

Clumsy is not all in your head, science says, and researchers are studying why it happens to certain people. Notoriously accident-prone Savannah Guthrie heads to the University of Delaware to get some answers about whether she was born to be uncoordinated.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> into coffee tables and walls and maybe tripping over your own feet? researchers are now studying why certain people are clumsy, and since i might know a little something about this topic, i decided to find out if clumsiness could be cured. from hollywood to washington.

>> the president caught a heel and fell.

>> clumsiness has often equaled comedy. not immune from clumsiness, morning show anchors, and meredith vieira is not alone.

>> that hurt.

>> oh, my gosh. let's move on. so now i have this big bruise on my hand because i fell when i was in my closet, and i hit my hand on the shelf. and then down on my leg, can you see, i'm still recovering from that big fall on the tough mudder competition, which almost killed me. and i have two huge bruises, but i'm not going to show them to you because they're on my back side. so is there science behind clumsiness? a recent study found that accident prone people do actually exist. nearly one-third of us are more likely to have an accident than others. dr. bud swannick and his team of engineers at university of delaware are investigating what's happening in the brains of accident prone people. so what did they find?

>> they can't create a plan for what's going to happen next, and it could be within one-tenth or two-tenths of a second, and you're exposed to whatever is around you that could hurt you.

>> that fraction of a second can wreak havoc on anyone, even world class athletes.

>> i tell myself, being a little clumsy, dropping things.

>> kevin doll is a professional hockey player. he's recovering from a concussion. one of the side effects , clumsiness.

>> my eyes aren't catching up what i want to do or something.

>> after two months of physical therapy with jim buzz kirk, a specialist in the field, he is covered. they believe that same therapy could cure common clumsiness. so i asked him to help me out. he measureded my equilibrium and spatial awareness.

>> i'm going to tip your head forward and move your head side to side like this. now look to the right and look to the left.

>> he watches my eyes as they react to movement.

>> very good.

>> what happened?

>> i saw a little something in your eyes there that's not supposed to be there.

>> next up, electrodes measure my inner ear and balance.

>> when you hear that sound, i want you to lift your head right up off the pillow.

>> hear sound, lift head. got it.

>> get your ab workout for the day.

>> exactly. it will be good for my core. more tests. this one, i think i nailed. down, up, right, something. down. up. left. down.

>> very well done.

>> and now my head explodes. but he saves the most challenge for last. a moving platform.

>> i feel crazy.

>> you're doing great. back into the glasses. left center, right center. up center, down center.

>> the result, five tests in all, and somehow i managed to fail every one. just so i can tell my mother, what is wrong with me again?

>> this is a equilibrium and balance system processing problem, where when you're trying to do more than one thing at a time, things aren't being processed 100% correctly, and it manifests itself with a physical anoma anomaly, causing you to just be clumsy. certainly now i have enough of a measure that i could design a rehabilitative program for you.

>> so i could be cured?

>> with you, we don't worry so much. if your profession involved climbing up ladders and doing things up on scaffolds, i'd be a lot more concerned and a lot more worried.

>> but science has determined that i am an accident prone person?

>> that is correct.

>> there you have it.

>> one more last shot of that chin accident on there. jim buzzkirk actually described my problem, it took two single spaced pages to say what's wrong with me.

>> but there's a cure.

>> how long would it take you?

>> he said, if i wanted to do these exercises that he could design, it would be eight to ten weeks, two days a week of physical therapy .

>> i'll take the bruises.

>> i speak for the group when i say it's less important for us whether it can be cured. we want to know if it's contagious.

>> thank you for your concern. it's really so touching. anyway, our thanks to them. it was pretty interesting.

>> didn't you hurt yourself actually during the test?

>> oh, no, not during the test. the day of the test, mudder competition, i hurt myself in the doctor's office.

>> i heard you banged your hand while you were on the kind of device.

>> now, that is classic. i just forget because it happens all day long.

>> it's true. you'll come in and say, what's that bruise? i don't remember.

>> i have no idea. what i think is that i'm thinking really deep and important thoughts, and therefore i'm really not watching where i'm going.