People with MS are at a high risk for falls, but strategies to prevent falls are urgently needed. The team at NeurA have great expertise in falls prevention in the elderly and in other disease groups and have also been working on a major trial to improve balance and prevent falls in people with MS, view here. They are now turning their attention to helping people with MS recover from slips and trips that can also lead to dangerous falls.
In this pilot study, Professor Stephen Lord and his team will examine the relationship between balance recovery skill and falls history in people with MS, and assess the feasibility and potential efficacy of a reactive step training program as a fall-prevention strategy for people with MS.
He will recruit 44 people with MS and determine their history of falls over the past six months. Before starting the training program he will assess the participants’ ability to recover from trips and slips by getting them to walk through a specially designed platform that has hidden slip and trip hazards, whilst wearing a full body safety harness that prevents them from falling to the floor. They will then be randomly separated into two groups. One group will undergo weekly training sessions for three weeks. These sessions are specifically designed to focus on recovering from trips and slips. The other group will undergo general exercise training program. Both groups will then repeat the assessment on the slip and trip hazard platform.
The data gathered during the exercise and assessment sessions will then be compared to explore mechanisms by which people with MS can improve their balance recovery responses and design a larger scale trial of a fall prevention program that could be easily integrated into clinical practice.
The first person with MS enrolled in this study underwent three sessions of reactive step training which have been programmed for healthy older adults. However, considering the feedback from the participant and researchers who conducted the training sessions, the program was adapted to a two-session program with greater focus on reactive stepping responses (i.e. eliminating trials which allow prediction and preparatory movements). This adjusted program allows focused training of reactive stepping and balance recovery from unexpected trips and slips.
So far, 48 people with MS have been assessed for eligibility for the study of which 32 have been enrolled and 28 have completed the study protocol. Some improvements in balance recovery was seen by the researcher who conducted the training and assessment, although formal analysis of the study will be conducted when all participants have completed the study protocol and all data have been processed. Professor Lord has also received positive feedback from most participants regarding the study. This study is ongoing and will continue until 44 people with MS have been enrolled and completed the study.
Once completed, this study will hopefully show that teaching people with MS to reactively respond to fall hazards will improve rapid balance recovery responses and reduce falls.
Professor Lord has prepared several manuscripts based on this work for publication in scientific journals and has established international collaborations.
Updated: 11 June 2020
Updated: 02 January, 2018