Home » Health & Safety Channel » Physical Therapy: More than Just a Game

Physical Therapy: More than Just a Game

Making child's play out of rehabilitation using video game technology

As the number of children participating in athletics increases, so does the number of serious athletic injuries. To meet the growing demand for prevention and rehabilitation of these injuries, an increasing number of physical therapists are making child's play out of rehabilitation using video game technology.

Rehabilitation and physical therapy treatment help shorten hospital stays, provide a cost-effective alternative to surgery and help patients regain an active daily life. Traditionally, therapies require repetitive, oftentimes arduous verbal and tactile feedback from the clinician, and, added to this, many typical treatments also lack objective criteria for measuring progress. The whole process can frustrate the patient and therapist alike as they both struggle to measure the patient's ability in a given task.

Until now.

Picture a patient sitting comfortably in front of a computer. Images on the screen capture his or her attention as s/he playfully directs them using wireless motion-sensitive technology. This may sound like the newest video game fad, but in reality, it is the latest breakthrough in physical therapy.

Meet Performance Health Technologies' Core:Tx® therapy program, a groundbreaking wireless therapy system that effectively guides, documents and tracks patient rehabilitation, providing instant feedback on progress based on measurable objectives.

The use of interactive video technology in neurological treatment and rehabilitation is not entirely new, having gained media attention in recent months with the introduction of Nintendo's® Wii gaming technology into therapy settings. News outlets ranging from trade and industry-specific media to the Associated Press have reported on hospitals around the country incorporating Wii into their therapy programs.

The philosophy is quite simple. Wii simulates body movements similar to those used in traditional physical therapy, but does so while simultaneously offering divertive entertainment to the user. As a result, patients not only enjoy therapy sessions but also can actually forget that they are working. In essence, "Wiihabilitation," as the practice is sometimes called, takes the drudgery out of physical therapy while at the same time improving patient morale. The desirability of video-based therapy is easy to understand, as people naturally shy away from monotony and gravitate towards activities that entertain them.

Despite the benefits of Wii, however, it does have significant shortcomings in clinical application, the most apparent of which is its inability to provide objective and measurable feedback on patient progress. This is because, at its root, Wii was created as a form of entertainment - a game - and, as such, its technology is not based on any medical model of functionality. Thus, while therapists have appreciated its contribution to their programs and practices, they have not been able to use Wii to track and report patient improvement. In reality, Wii's increase in rehabilitative popularity in recent months has not been due to its being the best product of its kind on the market, but rather to its being the only product of its kind of the market.

That, however, is about to change.

The Core:Tx® wireless therapy system takes the concept of video gaming and anchors it to a platform of medical functionality. The system is based on Performance Health Technologies' (PHT's) proprietary MotionTrackTM technology, developed by medical and computer experts over the past ten years and offering the capability to objectively track and provide feedback on patient movement.

In brief, Core:Tx® is a combination hardware/software application that can operate on a home computer. Its primary piece of hardware is a small soap-bar-sized device that can be attached anywhere on a user's body, such as an arm or a leg, depending on the area of therapeutic focus. As the software provides motivating and informational feedback to the user via an entertaining, game-like interface, the device utilizes a gyroscope to detect limb motion relative to the user's joint. This information is then transmitted wirelessly to the computer software, which logs and measures the data, providing the user with a score at the end of each session.

Because PHT employs not only technology but also medical experts, Core:Tx® is built on cutting-edge medical developments regarding neuromuscular re-education and brain remodeling. Far from a simple game, Core:Tx® is a very powerful rehabilitation tool that can effectively retrain and potentially improve patient movement.

The increasing interest in Core:Tx® presents no surprise. The technology combines the best in video entertainment with the latest medical therapeutic breakthroughs, resulting in a versatile product that is technological leaps ahead of its closest competition and is, indeed, the future of therapy.

And it's easy to see why. For, while everyone loves entertainment, effective physical rehabilitation requires more than a mere game.

Peter Sanzio, PT, CSCS, is a Clinical Applications Specialist with Performance Health Technologies. He holds a Master's degree in Physical Therapy from the College of Staten Island and is an accomplished Physical Therapist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. For more information on Performance Health Technologies, click here.