28 December 2008

With Wii bit of help, rehabbers doing fine

MANSFIELD -- He's 67 and recovering from a stroke, but Joe Lakes bowls, boxes and plays golf.

Since the Nintendo Wii was introduced into the occupational therapy program at MedCentral/ Mansfield Hospital, manager Trey Counts said patients have benefited in a variety of ways while enjoying familiar sports all year long.

"The Wii is being used more and more in the rehab setting," Counts said. "We have a lot of patients who have a history of playing sports and being active, so it's nice to be able to offer this to them," Nintendo says on its Website.

The Wii is an interactive videogame system.

"A distinguishing feature of the console is its wireless controller, the Wii Remote, which can be used as a handheld pointing device and detect movement in three dimensions."

Medical News Today reported Wii is being used for rehabilitation in hospitals around the country.

"You have to do the majority of the movements involved in the real-life activity," Counts said. "There are buttons involved, so it's not exactly the same as in real life, but it can become very engaging."

The occupational therapy department, which treats those with head injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, amputations, etc., currently offers 10 different games. Counts said they plan to offer the Wii Fit as soon as one becomes available for purchase.

"Everyone seems to be sold out of them," he said. "These games help the patients work on endurance, balance and range of motion. Some games involved cognitive skills, like sequencing, memory and keeping score."

Lakes said he had a stoke on Nov. 1, which impaired the left side of his body.

"I'm just starting to get feeling back in there, but I had to learn how to balance myself all over again," the Mansfield man said. "The Wii has been great for that. I've tried the bowling and the boxing. With bowling, if you lunge forward too much that can throw off your balance."

Lakes said using the Wii was not difficult.

"Plus, it adds a little bit of fun," he said.

Counts said he believes those as young as 3 and as old as 90 would easily be able to pick up the skills.

"We use these in the rehab stage and have gotten a lot of positive feedback," he said. "We can choose the games based on their goals, but also to get them back into their old habits. If they like to play golf, we can have them play the Wii golf game to get some of those skills back. It's fun, and they don't even realize they're working on balance and endurance. I mean they'll really get fatigued playing some of these."

Occupational therapist Charles Prinz said the Wii doesn't take away from other activities.

"This is just an addition here," he said. "It just makes things a little easier on us. A bowling simulation makes it easier because in the gym, we'd have to have one of our staff members there to set back up the pins and retrieve the ball. Now this frees up someone to do something else."

Prinz added the Wii is not forced on anyone.

"If someone doesn't like sports, then we wouldn't offer this to them," he said. "They'll spend anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour on here. Everyone really seems to enjoy it."

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