Nintendo's Wii Fit could successfully help improve balance for a soldier with a traumatic brain injury, a problem many soldiers are facing after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, found Kansas State University researchers.
Shawna Jordan and Laurie Hildebrand, are studying the effectiveness of Nintendo Wii in rehabilitation.
And the results showed positive improvements in balance and user satisfaction for an individual undergoing neurological therapy.
"Wii has been out for a few years and has been used in settings like hospitals, nursing homes and clinics for all types of rehab, but there's not a lot of published research that shows that it's effective," said Hildebrand.
The researchers started the case study in March with a soldier who had been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
He had gone through some traditional physical therapy before the study and followed up with the virtual reality balance work.
"Traumatic brain injuries are a big concern for soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts right now. These injuries often go undiagnosed, and we're not really sure how many soldiers have them," said Hildebrand.
She said traumatic brain injuries have many symptoms, including memory loss and changes in behaviour and cognitive function.
The researchers specifically focused on the physical aspect of restoring balance.
They used Nintendo's Wii Fit balance board and games, including the balance, yoga and strength training activities.
Baseline measurements of balance were initially taken of the individual. The study followed with five training sessions of 30 minutes each where the participant played different Wii Fit games.
The study showed that the soldier had positive improvements in his balance and had few errors related to balance in the Wii Fit activities.
The participant also reported liking the rehabilitation process itself because it was interactive and showed his progress through the training.
"Any time you can change rehabilitation processes and make them more interesting for the patient is great, especially with brain injuries, since neurological rehabilitation is a longer process," said Hildebrand.
The Wii is different from other virtual reality technologies used in rehabilitations, said Hildebrand.
Its advantages include that it's cheaper, easily accessible and easy to use. Possible follow-up research includes the effects of Wii on rehabilitation for other conditions, including injuries like ankle sprains and knee injuries.
Hildebrand presented the project in a poster at K-State's University Honors Program Convocation.