Video Games may Benefit Kids With Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy treatments explored in active video games like Wii

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Kids with cerebral palsy are at a greater risk for developing health issues like musculoskeletal disorders and being overweight, but video games such as Nintendo Wii may provide relief.

In a study of 17 children, active video games promoted rehabilitation through full body movement, engagement of both sides, repetitive movement and wrist extension. Most importantly, the children reported high levels of enjoyment, which encourages patient engagement in further therapy and enhances neuroplasticity.

"Consider replacing tv time with active video games."

Researchers at Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital, and the University of Toronto, Canada evaluated use of active video game play on children with a mean age of nine and a half years in a human movement laboratory.

Intensity of physical activity, therapeutic potential and practical consideration for physical activity were monitored and recorded for Wii bowling, Wii tennis, Wii boxing and DDR Disney Dance Grooves through heart rate, upper limb motion and upper limb muscle monitors.

Benefits of the play included increased energy expenditure and therapy for specific joints or movements. Typical increase energy expenditure during active video game play was 222 percent.

Children with cerebral palsy often have difficulty with wrist extension. Wii boxing required repetitive and fast-paced wrist movements that were therapeutic to the condition. Wii boxing and DDF Disney Dance Grooves promoted bilateral use of the body which is therapeutic for hemiplegia, a type of cerebral palsy that results in underuse of one side of the body.

The activity was not vigorous enough to increase strength or endurance and should not substitute actual exercise. However, replacing sedentary screen time with active video game play should be considered.

"Any kind of light enjoyable physical activity that can help stimulate the mind and body, will be beneficial for developing youngsters," notes Diane Shiao, PT, MSPT, DPT of Revive Physical Therapy and Wellness in Edison, New Jersey. "Video gaming that requires focus, coordination and involves the entire body in physical exercise is favored over sedentary video gaming."

This article was published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The research was supported by the Canadian Institute of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation. No commercial party had a direct financial interest.

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Review Date: 
May 15, 2012
Last Updated:
July 11, 2012