Our goal was to identify the specific contribution of fear of falling (FoF) and falls with quantitative gait impairments and cognition capabilities in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Patients were separated into four individual subgroups as to the presence of FoF and falls (i.e., fearless/non-fallers, fearless/fallers, FoF/non-fallers and FoF/fallers). The Falls Efficacy Scale International questionnaire was used to assess the level of concern of falling. Participants were defined as "fallers" and "non-fallers" based on their fall history. Spatio-temporal parameters of gait were analyzed using an electronic mat. Cognitive performance was assessed by a computerized cognitive battery of tests. The study included 540 MS patients, 47% were defined as fallers and 61.9% reported a FoF. Non-significant differences were found between the fearless/non-fallers and fearless/fallers in all clinical, gait and cognitive scores. FoF/non-fallers walked significantly slower compared to fearless MS individuals who had previously fallen. Furthermore, the same patient group exhibited a poorer performance in the motor skills cognitive subdomain. A significant reverse relationship was found between FoF and cognitive motor skills in the fallers and non-fallers groups. FoF characterizes a more disabling symptom than falling in the MS population.
Keywords: Cognition; Falls; Fear of falling; Gait; Multiple sclerosis; Neurological.