Research: Active Play Video Games May Benefit Children with Cerebral Palsy

Children with cerebral palsy (CP) can greatly benefit from playing "active play" video games – as opposed to the kind that don't require any kind of physical activity. According to researchers from Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and the University of Toronto.

Children with CP that play traditional games face an even greater risk of being overweight or developing health issues such as diabetes or musculoskeletal disorders than other children. But researchers say that video games such as those found on Nintendo's Wii can provide an opportunity to promote light to moderate physical activity in children with CP, and may even have a role to play in rehabilitation therapy. Their research was published online today in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

"Active video games (AVG) provide a low-cost, commercially available system that can be strategically selected to address specific therapeutic goals," says lead investigator Elaine Biddiss, PhD, of Toronto's Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, and the University of Toronto, Canada. "While our results did not show that AVG game play can be regarded as a replacement for more vigorous physical activity or muscle strengthening, we found that some games may provide targeted therapy focused on specific joints or movements."

The researchers chose 17 children with CP and studied them while they played four active video games on the Wii – Wii Bowling, Tennis, Boxing, and Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). Data about energy, motion, and muscle activity data was collected – followed by a survey that all the participants filled out. The survey gauged the children’s level of enjoyment playing the games. Researchers evaluated things like the intensity of the activity, the therapeutic potential of the games, and other practical considerations surrounding the use of active video games for promoting exercise.

Researchers came to the conclusion that children with mild CP can get moderate levels of physical activity during active video game play with the kinds of games that require full body movements, such as Wii Boxing and DDR, but the activities in those games were not deemed vigorous enough to build endurance or strength. Researchers did find that active video games encourage repetitive movement and can provide feedback to the user through on-screen avatars and game scores, which has the potential to promote neuroplastic change. Beyond the physical results, all of the children reported high levels of enjoyment, which researchers say can also enhance neuroplasticity.

Dr. Biddiss noted that games like Wii Boxing may be an "effective motivational environment for encouraging increased movement speed of the hemiplegic limb, in addition to the bilateral use of the limbs, because in-game success is strongly linked to these two metrics."

He goes on to say that active video games are not a replacement for traditional therapy methods and that there are many opportunities for further research on this particular subject. He believes that future advancements in game technology "may usher in a new age in physical rehabilitation where virtual environments provide an arena for neuroplastic change in the comfort of one's home."

Source: Science Codex

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