Predicting Falls

We have been awarded funding by the Education and Health Sciences Faculty, UL, Seed Fund and MS Ireland to investigate the predictors of falls for people with MS. 


Falls are a serious issue for many people with MS; approximately 50% of individuals with MS will experience a fall in any 3-month period. There are many factors that can cause a person with MS to fall ranging from problems with balance and walking to issues with bladder control. Unfortunately, serious injuries can arise from these falls which can reduce a person’s ability to partake in their daily activities. Alongside the physical injuries, people with MS who fall may develop a ‘fear of falling’ which can reduce their physical ability and socialising. Many of the issues that cause a person with MS to fall can potentially be reduced through physiotherapy treatment, however a rapid means of assessing a person’s risk of falling is needed in busy neurology clinics.

What does it involve? 

Volunteers attending the neurology service in St. Vincent’s hospital were assessed between December 2014 and June 2016. They completed a one-off assessment including a questionnaire asking about various symptoms related to MS, about use of mobility aids and about fear of falling among others. They then did a timed mobility assessment called the Timed up and Go, first as a single task activity and then as a dual task activity with an added cognitive task of counting backwards in threes. Lastly, they filled out falls diaries for a three-month period. Data collection is now complete and data analysis and paper writing is ongoing.


Findings to date?

Before commencing this study, a review of the current literature investigating the ability of clinical balance measures to identify falls risk in multiple sclerosis was conducted. The full text of this study can be found here. You can also read a poster presentation on the ability of the Timed Up and Go to identify falls risk in MS presented at the IARM conference here.

Who is involved? 

Prof Susan Coote, of the University of Limerick, and Dr Christopher McGuigan, of St Vincent’s University Hospital, are leading this project. Laura Comber and Gillian Quinn are the Chartered Physiotherapists who carried out the assessments of volunteers and data analysis. Prof Ailish Hannigan is carrying out the statistical analysis.