23-year-old stroke patient attributes recovery to video games

A 23-year-old stroke patient says she made a remarkable recovery after suffering a stroke because of rehabilitation therapy using Nintendo Wii.

Stephanie Ho suffered a stroke in 2010, when she was just 22 years old, as a result of a congenital defect in the blood vessels of her brain. The stroke affected the left side of her brain, leaving her unable to move her right arm and hand.

Stephanie was invited to participate in a study at Neuroscience Research Australia, led by Dr Penelope McNulty, on the use of Nintendo Wii to improve recovery after stroke.

The study shows that intensive, two-week training can result in significant improvements in movement in affected limbs post-stroke.

Over 60,000 Australians suffer a stroke every year. Rehabilitation is the only method to recover movement of stroke-affected limbs.

The therapy consisted of one hour of Wii training on 10 consecutive weekdays using the Wii Sports games of tennis, golf, boxing, bowling and baseball.

Patients used the Wii remote in their more-affected hand to control play, and augmented their formal therapy with up to three hours of home practice a day.

Dr McNulty says the range and quality of movement improved for every patient in the study. “Everyone noticed improvements not just using the Wii, but in activities they do every day, such as opening a door or using a fork.”

The Nintendo Wii is inexpensive, easy to use and effective, says Dr McNulty. “This type of rehabilitation, using virtual reality, motivates participants to complete their therapy, which is essential for recovery to take place.”

Stephanie Ho says Wii therapy helped her put in the extra hours of rehabilitation she needed to recover.

“It really helped me start using my affected arm again,” she says. “Regular therapy can be so boring and frustrating, but with Wii therapy, you don’t have to think about it, you just play.”

The study was published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine.