Science Gazette

Stroke sufferers benefit from video game-based rehabilitation

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Following a stroke, individuals may lose sensation in one arm or have weakness and limited mobility, limiting their ability to do fundamental everyday tasks. Traditional rehabilitation treatment is time-consuming, rigorous, and may be both costly and difficult, particularly for rural patients who must travel considerable distances to in-person therapy visits.

That’s why a group of researchers, including one from the University of Missouri, developed Recovery Rapids, a motion-sensor video game that allows stroke patients to rehabilitate their motor skills and impacted arm motions at home while communicating with a therapist through telemedicine.

The researchers discovered that game-based treatment produced results comparable to a highly acclaimed kind of in-person therapy known as constraint-induced therapy while needing just one-fifth of the therapist hours. As telemedicine has grown in popularity during the COVID-19 epidemic, this strategy saves time and money while boosting convenience and safety.

“As an occupational therapist, I’ve seen patients from rural areas drive more than an hour to come to an in-person clinic three to four days a week, where the rehab is very intensive, taking three to four hours per session, and the therapist must be present the entire time,” said Rachel Proffitt, assistant professor in the MU School of Health Professions. “With this innovative at-home gaming technique, we save money for the patient and time for the therapist while enhancing convenience and overall health results, so it’s a win-win situation. We can now assist more patients and have a greater effect on our communities since we have saved time for the therapists.”

Patients seldom adhere to traditional rehab home exercises because they are repetitious and tedious. The Recovery Rapids game encourages patients to look forward to rehabilitation by allowing them to complete numerous obstacles in a pleasant, interactive setting, and the researchers discovered that the patients adhered well to their recommended exercises.

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“The patient is virtually placed in a kayak, and as they go down the river, they perform arm motions simulating paddling, rowing, scooping up trash, swaying from side to side to steer, and reaching overhead to clear out spider webs and bats,” said Rachel Proffitt, assistant professor in the MU School of Health Professions. “As individuals develop, the tasks get more difficult, and we undertake telehealth check-ins with participants to alter objectives, offer feedback, and discuss the everyday activities they wish to continue as they improve.”

According to the CDC, about 800,000 Americans experience a stroke each year, and two-thirds of stroke survivors report being unable to use their damaged limbs for routine everyday tasks such as pouring a cup of coffee, preparing a meal, or playing with their grandkids.

“I am enthusiastic about assisting patients in resuming all of the things they like doing in their everyday lives,” Proffitt added. “The ultimate objective as therapists is to assist in a creative manner while saving time and money.”

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