Wii-Habilitation: What Will They Think of Next?

The popularity of Nintendo’s Wii video game system has already extended way beyond the teenage gaming cult. Not only are adult users playing along, but physiotherapists have discovered the benefits of Wii Therapy for patients recovering from strokes, broken bones, surgery and even combat injuries.

The typical stretching and lifting exercises that help injured patients regain strength and functionality often inflict pain and induce boredom. Wii puts an element of play into the therapeutic process.

How Wii Works

The Wii system  is based on motion  detection. It engages a spatially sensitive wireless controller, which uses accelerometers and an infrared sensor bar  to recognise and interpret gestures. The system differs from other types of games in that it provides  auditory, tactile and visual feedback.

Why Wii?

“Using the game console’s unique, motion-sensitive controller, Wii games require body movements similar to traditional therapy exercises. But patients become so engrossed mentally they’re almost oblivious to the rigor,” explains James Osborn, who oversees rehabilitation services at Herrin Hospital in Southern Illinois.

The Wii system’s game format enhances the therapeutic process. It creates a sense of inner competitiveness, sort of like playing a game of solitaire. You know that you’re playing against an imaginary figure on the screen, but you will still try to beat your opponent. Refocusing your attention away from the tediousness of the task  helps you concentrate on – and even enjoy – the movement patterns.

Athletic Wii

The most popular Wii games used for rehab simulate athletic activities, including skiing, baseball, bowling, boxing, golf  and tennis. Using similar sport-specific arm swings, the patients maneuver a wireless console, which controls the actions and movement patterns of the animated screen athletes. These movements are similar to those prescribed in physiotherapy.  As such, they can potentially enhance  balance, efficient arm and upper body movement, hand–eye co-ordination and postural alignment.

Common Wiihabilitation Examples

Physiotherapists have also  used the Wii Fit Balance Board in the treatment of patients with neurological disorders. Since the game accommodates both sitting and standing positions, rehab specialists can use the boards with their wheelchair patients. St. James Hospital in Dublin uses the Wii games for stroke rehabilitation.  As a side benefit, older patients have found an at-home game they can now play with their grandchildren.

At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Wii therapy  has proven effective for patients injured during combat in Iraq –especially since their age group is into playing video games. The Wii also help patients relearn the activities of daily living, such as brushing teeth, combing hair and fastening clothes.

Despite its benefits, like any exercise form, there’s a danger of Wii overuse injury. If you want to use your Wii Balance board to supplement your physiotherapy, ask your physio’s advice call Happy Physio on (08) 9272 7359 now!