Anna K Benton, Sarah E Hollis, Gregory Lance Mahrer



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Mobility impairments are reported as the most debilitating symptoms for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Fatigue, a major issue, further affects mobility. Ankle foot orthoses (AFOs) are one potential solution to alleviate some of these mobility impairments; however, the effectiveness of AFOs for individuals with MS are still inconclusive and have known downfalls. Since the emergence of carbon fiber AFOs, which are lightweight and provide elastic energy storage, the use of AFOs to aid individuals with MS has become more promising; however, their high cost (approximately $300-$400) compared to traditional polypropylene AFOs (approximately $40) drive the need for further evaluation. We plan to take a comprehensive look at AFOs and examine the tradeoffs in wearing the polypropylene or carbon fiber AFOs with regard to gait, balance, strength, fatigue, and comfort. In collaboration with the University of Dayton’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program, our research group is now collecting this data from 20 participants with MS – each coming in on three separate occasions (no brace, plastic AFO, and carbon AFO). Participants completed various clinical assessments, the outcomes of which will be incorporated in the final overall conclusions on AFO effectiveness. The focus of this presentation will be on the more biomechanical aspects of the study in regards to the balance testing, which is done using two tests: the quiet standing posturography and limits of stability assessments. Five individuals have completed their study participation to date, so only the beginning stages of data analysis has been completed. Preliminary results suggest that the AFO conditions seem to positively affect side-to-side sway and that they do not restrict leaning. The completion of testing will hopefully give some insight and understanding into the effects of AFOs on gait, balance, and fatigue for those with Multiple Sclerosis.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research - Undergraduate

Primary Advisor

Kimberly E. Bigelow

Primary Advisor's Department

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Stander Symposium project

How carbon composite and plastic ankle foot orthoses influence balance in individuals with multiple sclerosis