Change in ‘first-trial’ performance after protective step practice in people with multiple sclerosis

Charles Van Liew, Leland E. Dibble, K. Bo Foreman, Daniel S. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating, neurodegenerative disorder causing considerable gait and balance dysfunction. Reactive balance (i.e., quick movements in response to a loss of balance) is particularly important for fall risk and is impaired in people with MS compared to neurotypical peers. Therefore, improving reactive balance among those with MS is critical. However, for maximum ecological validity, improvements in reactive balance through training would be demonstrable upon first loss-of-balance, rather than an average of several trials as is typically reported. This study evaluated changes in performance on the first stepping trial in people with MS after one day of practice. Methods: Fourteen people with MS underwent two, consecutive days of support-surface perturbations from stance. On day 1, participants underwent a single backward-stepping trial, followed by 35 practice trails (forward and backward). Approximately 24 h later, participants were again exposed to a single backward stepping perturbation. Protective stepping outcomes were step length, step latency, and margin of stability at first foot contact. The backward step performance on the first trial of days one and two were compared, and difference scores were evaluated for relationships with correlates based on theoretical considerations. Findings: First-trial margin of stability increased (improved) from day 1 to day 2 (P = .016). Steps were also faster on average by approximately 5 ms on day 2, although this improvement was not significant (P = .062). Interpretations: Although preliminary, these findings provide evidence that individuals with MS may be able to experience first-trial improvements after a low dose of perturbation training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105448
JournalClinical Biomechanics
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Falls
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Postural balance
  • Reactive balance
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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