A Prescription of Video Games for Stroke Patients

Wendy Wu ’22

Figure 1: Microsoft Kinect is a part of this stroke patient’s rehabilitation exercises.

Stroke, one of the leading causes of death in the United States, occurs when a clot or bleed prevents oxygenated blood from reaching the brain. If not enough oxygen is present, brain cells start to die, which can be fatal. While stroke fatalities have decreased over recent years, brain damage is still common in stroke patients; they are likely to experience problems with motor and postural control, balance, and gait. These patients will need to undergo specific types of therapy, like speech or physical, depending on their motor and sensory deficits. A relatively new form of therapy has been on the rise, video-game based therapy (VG), in which patients immerse themselves into video game reality. María José Cano-Mañas, a Ph.D student at Rey Juan Carlos University, hypothesizes that VG, alongside conventional therapy, could be used to treat patients with subacute stroke. 

Initially, 56 subjects diagnosed with stroke in the subacute phase (a period between 15 days and six months after the event) participated in the study. Researchers randomly assigned half of the participants to the control group, and the other half to the experimental group. Dr. Cano-Mañas and her colleagues evaluated both groups pre-treatment and post-treatment based on eight outcome measures that tested the patients’ functional mobility, balance, and quality of life among other things. The control group received conventional therapy, with 40 sessions (30 hours total) each of physical and occupational therapy. The experimental group received 24 sessions of conventional therapy (14 hours) and VG (8 hours) using the Xbox 360° console and Microsoft Kinect. The gaming protocol, involving a mix of Kinect Sports games, was designed by three physical therapists and one psychiatrist. The rest of the experimental group’s sessions consisted only of conventional therapy. 

In total, 48 patients completed the intervention plan. Results revealed significant improvement in balance and gait in both groups, but the differences in the experimental group were significantly greater than that of the control. Video-game therapy combined with conventional therapy resulted in vast improvements in stroke patients’ ability to carry out daily tasks, their balance and gait, as well as their motivation and self-esteem. This research shows that VG could be incorporated into clinical practice. Specific protocols, however, would need to be tailored for each patient and a standard protocol has yet to be developed.


Works Cited:

[1] M. Cano-Mañas, et al., Effects of video-game based therapy on balance, postural control, functionality, and quality of life of patients with subacute stroke: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Healthcare Engineering 2020, (2020). doi:10.1155/2020/5480315.

[2] Image retrieved from: https://www.physio-pedia.com/The_emerging_role_of_Microsoft_Kinect_in_physiotherapy_rehabilitation_for_stroke_patients


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