The Nintendo Wii is being heralded in a 23-year old Australian stroke patient’s “remarkable recovery”. Stephanie Ho was just 22 when she suffered a stroke which affected the left side of her brain, a result of a congenital defect in the brain’s blood vessels. Following the incident, Stephanie was unable to use her right arm or hand.
Dr. Penelope McNulty, of Neuroscience Research Australia, invited Stephanie to take part in a study they were running, exploring how the Wii can be used to improve recovery after a stroke.
In the study, written up in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, Dr. McNulty observes that every patient enjoyed improvement in the range and quality of movement after using the Wii console.
“Everyone noticed improvements not just using the Wii, but in activities they do every day, such as opening a door or using a fork.”
It’s long been known that rehabilitation is the only method that can recover movement of stroke-affected limbs, so it was pleasing to see the NRA study shows that “intensive, two-week training” can lead to significant improvements in movement of the affected limbs. For ten consecutive weekdays, Stephanie and other study patients attended one hour of Wii training, playing tennis, golf, boxing, bowling and baseball on Wii Sports with the Wii-mote in their most-affected hand. This was backed up by up to three hours of home practice every day.
Dr. McNulty also comments that the Wii is easy to use, effective, and – importantly – inexpensive.
“This type of rehabilitation, using virtual reality, motivates participants to complete their therapy, which is essential for recovery to take place.
Stephanie adds that the fact she was essentially playing a video game made rehab a much more enjoyable activity, which helped her recovery.
“It really helped me start using my affected arm again.
“Regular therapy can be so boring and frustrating, but with Wii therapy, you don’t have to think about it, you just play.”
More than 60,000 Australians suffer from stroke every year.