Video games proving valuable to patient rehabilitation - KMSP-TV

Video games proving valuable to patient rehabilitation

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Courtesy: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Courtesy: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
(WJBK) -

The video games aren't just for the kids and "gamers" anymore - doctors are starting to realize what a valuable resource the games are for rehabilitation.

Take, for example, Nancy Henckle. After suffering a stroke she lost much of the use of her right hand. She never got rehab and now often struggles with everyday routines.

But in just one week, that's changed.  

"I noticed I went to the grocery yesterday, I reached up,I could get things. It's like it's become unfrozen," she explains.

What made such a difference for her was canoe paddling video game, an uncommon approach to rehab developed by researchers.

A glove was put on her right, affected hand with sensors to control the game. On her other hand is a mitt that prevents her from using it.

"This really promotes the person to use their affected side for all their daily activities.  So, it really can be conceptualized as 'boot camp' for the affected arm," says Dr. Lynne Gauthier from Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center.

Gauthier and a team designed the game at the center using what's known as constraint-induced movement therapy. Constraining a patient's healthy limb during rehab has proven more effective than regular therapy.

"Much more effective - and it promotes long-term gains in motor functioning, it's just not available.  Less than 1 percent of patients are actually able to receive it," adds Gauthier.   

The video game offers constraint-induced movement therapy, and patients can do it in the comfort of their own homes. Patients are seeing results. In early tests they averaged a staggering 1,500 movements an hour, often without realizing it.  

"We always ask them 'How long do you think you've played?' and participants will say 'Oh, you know, maybe 10 minutes,' and some of them have played 40 minutes at that point," says Gauthier.   

Experts say there have been other games developed to help patients with rehab but this one is the only one designed by therapists with input of their patients.

They hope to market the game to the public in the coming year.

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