Falls in people with multiple sclerosis compared with falls in healthy controls

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 25;9(9):e107620. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107620. eCollection 2014.


Objective: To compare the risk, circumstances, consequences and causes of prospectively recorded falls between people with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) and healthy controls of similar age and gender.

Methods: 58 PwMS and 58 healthy controls, who are community-dwelling, were recruited in this 6-month prospective cohort study. 90% of PwMS and 84% of healthy controls completed the study. Participants counted falls prospectively using fall calendars and noted fall location, fall-related injuries, and the cause of the falls. Kaplan Meier survival analysis and log-rank tests were performed to compare the distributions of survival without falling between PwMS and healthy controls.

Results: 40.8% of controls and 71.2% of PwMS fell at least once. 48.1% of PwMS and 18.4% of healthy controls fell at least twice. 42.3% of PwMS and 20.4% of health controls sustained a fall-related injury. After adjusting for age and gender, the time to first fall (HR: 1.87, p = 0.033) and the time to recurrent falls (HR: 2.87, p = 0.0082) were significantly different between PwMS and healthy controls. PwMS reported an almost equal number of falls inside and outside, 86% of the falls in healthy controls were outside. Healthy controls were more likely to fall due to slipping on a slippery surface (39.5% vs 10.4%). PwMS more often attributed falls to distraction (31% vs 7%) and uniquely attributed falls to fatigue or heat.

Conclusions: Fall risk, circumstances, consequences, and causes are different for PwMS than for healthy people of the same age and gender. PwMS fall more, are more likely to be injured by a fall, and often fall indoors. PwMS, but not healthy controls, frequently fall because they are distracted, fatigued or hot.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Recurrence
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult