Video Games Transport Rehab Patients To Links, Ballparks

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Rehabilitation patients at Ohio State University Medical Center are golfing and bowling their way back to health - without ever leaving the hospital - through therapists' innovative use of a video game system to supplement their prescribed exercises.

Rehabilitation professionals recently began using the system to assist patients in working on visual and cognitive skills, problem solving, balance, coordination, and upper- and lower-body strength and endurance.

"The games can be more motivating than standard exercises," said Robbie Winget, a rehabilitation occupational therapist overseeing use of the system at Ohio State's Dodd Hall Rehabilitation Hospital. "But this does not replace conventional therapy at all. It's one more way to meet specific goals associated with therapy."

Inpatients typically work with the video game system for about 30 minutes per day two to three times per week. Generally, inpatients undergo a total of three hours of therapy each day.

Winget said games used for rehab patients include golf, bowling, tennis and baseball, all part of the Wii gaming system manufactured by Nintendo. The system uses sensors that monitor players' movements while they play the video games using actual motions associated with a given sport, such as swinging a golf club or hitting a baseball.

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"We brought in the Wii because of the very functional nature of the activities," Winget said. "It really encourages patients to get engaged in their therapy."

Patients using the system typically are recovering from strokes, spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries, but another benefit is that "it can really cover a large base of diagnoses," Winget said.

Winget noted that Wii games do not replace any traditional exercises prescribed and supervised by trained therapists, but do add a dimension of entertainment that often matches patients' leisure pursuits.

"While patients are playing baseball, we're working on their balance," he said.

It won't be surprising to see Wii used more and more frequently in rehabilitation programs nationally as awareness builds about its potential in therapy, said Todd Blind, a rehabilitation team leader at Dodd Hall.

"It's not mainstream yet. So far, the tendency has been for more progressive rehabilitation facilities to branch out and pursue options beyond standard therapy protocols," Blind said.

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