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While physical therapy is necessary when recovering from a stroke, it doesn't have to be limited to a tedious list of exercises and stretches. More and more, therapists are incorporating video games into treatment plans to get patients moving again and help them rebuild strength.
Wii Sports Games
Nintendo's Wii console uses motion controls to play many of its games. "Wii Sports" games are particularly helpful for stroke patients who have lost strength and range of motion in their arms. A 2011 study published in the "Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine" found that patients who played "Wii Sports" games for one hour per day during 10 consecutive weekdays of therapy and who played the games at home for 30 to 180 minutes per day had improved scores on motor function and range of motion tests.
Comparison Between Video Games and Traditional Games
Physical and occupational therapists often incorporate traditional games, such as Jenga and card games, into stroke patients' treatment plans. A 2010 study published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke, compared post-stroke patients who played Wii games as part of their physical therapy with patients who played traditional games. Researchers assessed the patients' scores on the Wolf Motor Function Test and other rehabilitation tests to compare the two groups and found the patients who played Wii games showed greater improvements in speed and strength after four weeks than those who played more traditional games.
This study utilized "Wii Sports" games, as well as "Cooking Mama," a Wii game that simulates preparing food through motion-based controls. Games that include familiar movements involved in daily life tasks can help patients improve their overall quality of life and assist them with getting more proficient with activities of daily living.
Games Manufactured for Therapeutic Purposes
More and more medical and therapeutic companies are turning to gaming software aimed at helping stroke patients recover -- largely due to the favorable outcomes shown in studies involving the Wii. As of February 2015, GesTherapy was working on a video game that involved maneuvering an airplane through hoops of various sizes. The game helps improve hand motor functionality and hand-eye coordination. It involves some of the same movements and exercises therapists use to help stroke patients, but the video game helps patients stay focused and motivated. The game automatically logs patients' progress so their therapists can analyze the data and make adjustments as necessary.
As more companies develop software and games targeted specifically for rehab patients, gaming as a form of therapy may become even more successful and popular.Share