Mo­tor func­tion of stroke pa­tients im­proves us­ing Wii games, small study finds

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY ANNE-MARIE TOBIN

tech­nol­ogy achieve greater per­for­mance in terms of their mo­tor func­tion, four weeks af­ter the in­ter­ven­tion,” said Dr. Gus­tavo Sa­pos­nik, a neu­rol­o­gist at St. Michael’s Hospi­tal in Toronto.

Changes in fine and gross mo­tor func­tion were shown in their speed and grip strength, he said.

The find­ings of the study, con­ducted at the Toronto Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion In­sti­tute, were pre­sented in San An­to­nio, Texas, at the Amer­i­can Stroke As­so­ci­a­tion’s In­ter­na­tional Stroke Con­fer­ence.

The study in­volved 20 pa­tients aged 41 to 83 who had suf­fered mild to moderate strokes. Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion be­gan within two months of the stroke, and they all re­ceived an in­ten­sive pro­gram of eight ses­sions, 60 min­utes each, over a two-week pe­riod.

Pa­tients in both groups were seated dur­ing ther­apy, and they were in­structed to pri­mar­ily use their af­fected arm.

Sa­pos­nik said those ran­dom­ized to the Wii ther­apy had a seven-sec­ond dif­fer­ence in greater per­for­mance com­pared to the oth­ers, which he de­scribed as “mean­ing­ful.”

“In other words, imag­ine that you have for ev­ery task you are do­ing, in­stead of do­ing that in 20 sec­onds, it will take you 27 sec­onds for each ac­tiv­ity that you do on a daily ba­sis. That would be an im­pres­sive pro­longed time.”

How­ever, he’s also quick to cau­tion that th­ese find­ings are pre­lim­i­nary.

“The re­sults are hope­ful ini­tial steps. But at this point we are not rec­om­mend­ing stroke pa­tients to play with the Wii. We are looking for­ward to hav­ing the re­sults of a larger study, which is al­ready un­der­way.”

Phys­io­ther­a­pists in a num­ber of lo­ca­tions have been in­cor­po­rat­ing video game tech­nol­ogy into their prac­tices in re­cent years.

Vera Fung, a mem­ber of the Cana­dian Phys­io­ther­apy As­so­ci­a­tion and a clin­i­cal re­searcher at St. John’s Re­hab Hospi­tal in Toronto, says she’s not sur­prised by the stroke re­search.

About two years ago, her in­sti­tu­tion con­ducted a study ask­ing for clin­i­cal per­spec­tives on the use of Nin­tendo Wii tech­nol­ogy for help­ing not only stroke pa­tients, but also car­diac trans­plant pa­tients, am­putees, those in burn re­hab and pa­tients with to­tal knee and hip re­place­ments.

“The clin­i­cians ac­tu­ally were in agree­ment that games like Wii ten­nis, ’Cook­ing Mama,’ as well as games like ’ Big Brain Academy’ and fi­nally a driv­ing sim­u­la­tion game, which all of the par­tic­i­pants tri­alled and com­mented on, they all found that such games had the po­ten­tial to re­store mo­tor func­tion,” she said.

As well, they found there was po­ten­tial to im­prove bal­ance and stand­ing tol­er­ance, while pa­tients were mo­ti­vated to par­tic­i­pate.

The fun fac­tor is not to be un­der­es­ti­mated.

“ We are strug­gling in re­hab to en­gage peo­ple in ac­tiv­i­ties that rep­re­sent tasks that they need to do that are fun to do, that chal­lenge them, and this study is en­cour­ag­ing from those per­spec­tives,” said Gail Creaser, also a mem­ber of the phys­io­ther­apy as­so­ci­a­tion and a lec­turer at Dal­housie Uni­ver­sity in Hal­i­fax.

The tech­nol­ogy is not ex­pen­sive com­pared to a lot of hospi­tal and re­hab equip­ment, she noted.

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