How Video Games Are Helping Rehab Patients

The simple ability to stand, walk and get up and down stairs can be lost in a stroke, but — especially in older people — frailty, weakness, a fall or a period of illness can be enough to do the same thing. Rehabilitation hospitals often admit people who have lost their ability to move around safely for intensive training of their strength, balance and mobility.

Unfortunately, limited staff mean that this retraining is often much less intensive than it could be. A group of Australian researchers have studied a novel way to increase the amount of rehabilitation received by such patients.

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The study set out to see if video and computer-based interactive exercises are safe, and if they improve task-specific balance in geriatric and neurological rehabilitation. The researchers specifically used games they dubbed "exer-games". Games that sense the player's body position and movements — such as those using a Wii or Kinect.

Exer-games can allow physiotherapists to offer more rehabilitation time to these patients, the study revealed. Taking place within a rehabilitation hospital, Physiotherapists individually tailored each patient's program to incorporate exer-games. The games were chosen from among a range of devices and were specifically designed to target each patient's rehabilitation needs.

The patients who received the exer-games in the study showed additional improvements in balance, which may be important in preventing falls in this population, the researchers concluded.

This local study adds to the numerous studies conducted globally into the physical and mental benefits of video games for therapy.

[Journal of Physiotherapy]


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