Distinguishing among multiple sclerosis fallers, near-fallers and non-fallers

Nora E. Fritz, Ani Eloyan, Moira Baynes, Scott D. Newsome, Peter A. Calabresi, Kathleen M Zackowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background Fall rates among adults with multiple sclerosis are consistently greater than 50%, but near-falls (i.e. a trip or stumble) are often undocumented. Furthermore, little is known about the circumstances surrounding fall and near-fall events. The purpose of this study was to examine the similarities and differences among non-fallers, near-fallers and fallers with multiple sclerosis, including the circumstances that surround falls and near-falls. Methods In a single visit, 135 multiple sclerosis participants completed the Hopkins Falls Grading Scale, a custom questionnaire investigating circumstances surrounding falls and near-falls, and performed the Timed Up and Go and Timed 25-Foot Walk tests. Mann-Whitney tests were used to examine differences between fallers, near-fallers and non-fallers. Multiple logistic regression with AIC criterion was used to examine associations of circumstances with the odds of falling vs. near-falling. Cumulative odds ordinal logistic regression was used to analyze the association between each of the walking tests and the susceptibility of the individual for falls or near-falls. Results 30% of individuals reported falls, while 44% reported near-falls over a 1-year period. Non-fallers completed the walking tests more quickly than near-fallers (p < 0.0045), and fallers (p < 0.0001); near-fallers and fallers demonstrated similar motor profiles. Individuals were more likely to sustain a fall rather than a near-fall under the following circumstances: transferring outside the home (p = 0.015) and tripping over an obstacle (p = 0.025). Performing 1-second slower on the walking tests increased the odds of a history of a fall by 6–20%. Conclusion Near-falls occur commonly in individuals with MS; near-fallers and fallers reported similar circumstances surrounding fall events and demonstrated similar performance on standard timed walking tests. Clinicians monitoring individuals with MS should consider evaluation of the circumstances surrounding falls in combination with quantitative walking measures to improve determination of fall risk and appropriate rehabilitation interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-104
Number of pages6
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Accidental falls
  • Falls
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Near-falls
  • Walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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