Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 41, Issue 8, pp 1740–1747 | Cite as

Footfall Placement Variability and Falls in Multiple Sclerosis

  • Michael J. Socie
  • Brian M. Sandroff
  • John H. Pula
  • Elizabeth T. Hsiao-Wecksler
  • Robert W. Motl
  • Jacob J. SosnoffEmail author


Gait variability (i.e., fluctuations in walking) provides unique information about the control of movement and is associated with falls. This investigation examined the association between gait variability and falls in persons with multiple sclerosis (MS) and healthy controls. Traditional distributional metrics of gait variability (i.e., coefficient of variation (CV)) and a novel metric based on Fourier series analysis of footfall placement variability were determined for 41 individuals with MS and 20 age- and sex-matched controls. Spatiotemporal parameters of gait were collected using a 7.9 m electronic walkway that recorded individual footfalls during steady state comfortable walking. Persons with MS were divided into two groups based on fall history (non-fallers and recurrent fallers). Overall, persons with MS had greater gait variability than controls as indexed by CV and Fourier-based variability (p’s < 0.05). Moreover, recurrent fallers with MS had greater Fourier-based variability than non-fallers with MS (p = 0.025), whereas there was no difference in MS groups in traditional gait variability metrics (p > 0.05). These observations highlight that footfall placement variability is related to fall status in MS. Future work determining the sensitivity of footfall placement variability to dysfunction is warranted.


Gait variability Recurrent falls Fourier series Gait impairment 



This investigation was funded in part by the OSF foundation, who took no role in experimental design or manuscript preparation. The authors would also like to thank members of the Motor Control and Exercise Neuroscience research laboratories at the University of Illinois for their contributions towards data collection.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Socie
    • 1
  • Brian M. Sandroff
    • 2
  • John H. Pula
    • 3
  • Elizabeth T. Hsiao-Wecksler
    • 1
  • Robert W. Motl
    • 2
  • Jacob J. Sosnoff
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical Science and EngineeringUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Kinesiology and Community HealthUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  3. 3.Illinois Neurological InstituteUniversity of Illinois College of Medicine at PeoriaPeoriaUSA

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