A significant portion of people with MS will experience falls, with research showing that in the previous six months up to 60% of people with MS will have fallen. A large proportion of these falls will result in an injury serious enough to require medical attention, and while not only painful, they also have an enormous impact on the confidence of people with MS.
To combat falling and walking issues, researchers, led by Professor Stephen Lord and Dr Phu Hoang at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) are carrying out a clinical trial to test whether a video game-based exercise programme can improve the stability and walking abilities of people with MS.
This study utilised an electronic sensor mat placed on the floor which is then connected to a console and TV screen. The system is programmed to deliver a variety of games-style stepping cues presented on the TV screen. To follow the program’s prompts requires both coordination and thinking, or information processing, skills. While these games are designed to be fun and entertaining, they have the serious goal of training balance and cognitive functions.
This system has been successfully trialled in a pilot study of 50 people which showed that the individuals who received the training improved significantly in their performance in the game with faster and more accurate stepping. But more importantly, they showed improvements in real-world measures such as balance, posture, and walking speed. Interestingly, there was also evidence that they experienced some improvement in upper limb dexterity as well. Early data from this research has previously been published. You can read our article on it here.
The scientists are now rolling out a large-scale clinical trial to examine the full potential of this innovative program to reduce falls risk, and they are looking to enrol 500 people into the trial. You could be one of them.
So how do you get involved? More information on the trial, eligibility criteria and contact details can be found here. Briefly, they are looking for individuals with a confirmed diagnosis of MS, who can walk at least 50 meters with or without an aid and can stand unaided for at least one minute. The trial will require visits to either Neuroscience Research Australia in Randwick or the Lidcombe MS Study Centre in Sydney. An additional trial site will be opening in Canberra in the near future, we will provide more details on the mstrials when confirmed.
This study is just one of a number of clinical trials listed on the MS trials website, and we would encourage you to visit the site to see if you are interested in this trial or any of the other studies listed. Participating in a clinical trial might seem a little daunting, but there are many benefits of participating. You potentially have early access to promising new treatment options with the added advantage of very close additional monitoring, advice and care with health professionals that are experts in MS. Not least, you also have the opportunity to contribute to medical research with the potential to benefit others with MS in the years to come.