This study investigated timing and coordination during the swing phase of swing leg, body center of mass (CoM) and head during walking people with multiple sclerosis (MS; n = 19) and controls (n = 19). The MS group showed differences in swing phase timing at all speeds. At imposed but not preferred speeds, the MS group had less time to prepare for entry into the unstable equilibrium, as the CoM entered this phase of swing earlier. Time-to-contact coupling, quantifying the coordination between the CoM and the swing foot, was not different between groups. The projection of head motion on the ground occurred earlier after toeoff and was positioned closer to the body in the MS group, illustrating increased reliance on visual exproprioception in which vision of the body in relation to the surface of support is established. Finally, prospective control, linking head movements to the swing foot time-to-contact and next step landing area, was impaired in the MS group at higher gait speeds.
The authors are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.