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Life Lessons: Revolutionizing rehab through video games

By Nancy Werteen, Anchor / Reporter, NWerteen@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 06 2014 04:00:00 AM CST

We know that most kids love their video games but it turns out they are not just for kids.

We know that most kids love their video games but it turns out they are not just for kids.

Doctors say many of these games are revolutionizing rehab in a good way.

After suffering a stroke, Nancy Henckle lost much of the use of her right hand.

To make matters worse, she never got rehab, and now often struggles with everyday
routines. But in just one week, that’s changed.

Nancy explains, “Oh, my gosh! I noticed I went to the grocery yesterday, I reached up, I could get things. It’s like it’s become unfrozen.”

What made such a difference for Nancy was a video game designed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Using a common game console, researchers developed an uncommon approach to rehab.

First - on the affected hand - they put a glove with sensors to control the game. On the other is a mitt that prevents patients from using their healthy hand.

“This really promotes the person to use their affected side for all their daily activities. So, it really can be conceptualized as ‘boot camp’ for the affected arm,” says Dr. Lynne Gauthier, who is with Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

Dr. Gauthier and her team designed the game using what's know as constraint-induced movement therapy.

Constraining a patient’s healthy limb during rehab has proven more effective than regular therapy.

“Much more effective, and it promotes long-term gains in motor functioning, it’s just not available. Less than 1% of patients are actually able to receive it,” explains Dr. Gauthier.

So with this video game, she is taking it to them and in the comfort of their own home. She says patients are seeing results.

In early tests, they averaged a staggering 1500 movements an hour - often without realizing it.

“We always ask them ‘how long do you think you’ve played?’ And participants will say ‘oh, you know, maybe 10 minutes.’ And some of them have played 40 minutes at that point.”

Experts say there have been other games developed to help patients with rehab, and they expect more in the future.