London, Feb 11 : If you think that rehabilitation is all about boring and gruesome mental and physical training regime, you are surely mistaken, for American doctors are now using Nintendo's popular Wii video game system as a rehabilitation therapy.
This novel therapy is meant for patients recovering from strokes, broken bones, surgery and even combat injuries.
Such patients often need intensive physical therapy, which they often complain is repetitive, boring and sometimes painful.
The new approach called 'Wiihabilitation' would allow the patients to play a Wii video game as part of his physical therapy regime.
Medics consider it to be an excellent substitute for traditional therapy because, though it requires body movements just like traditional therapy, it involves so much of distraction that patients ignore the discomfort.
"In the Wii system, because it's kind of a game format, it does create this kind of inner competitiveness. Even though you may be boxing or playing tennis against some figure on the screen, it's amazing how many of our patients want to beat their opponent," the Telegraph quoted James Osborn, who oversees rehabilitation services at Herrin Hospital in southern Illinois, as saying.
"The hospital bought a Wii system for rehab patients late last year. "When people can refocus their attention from the tediousness of the physical task, oftentimes they do much better.
"While, Nintendo does not market Wii's potential use in physical therapy, still it was happy that it is proving beneficial for the patients. A company spokesman said it was "happy to see that people are finding added benefit in rehabilitation," he added.
The most popular Wii games in rehab involve sports baseball, bowling, boxing, golf and tennis. Players simulate the arm swings used in these sports by waving a wireless controller that directs the actions of animated athletes on the screen.
While a Wii system was recently bought by the Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital west of Chicago for its spinal cord injury unit, at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre, in Washington DC, the therapy is used on many patients injured during combat in Iraq.
WakeMed Health has been using Wii games at its Raleigh, North Carolina, hospital for patients as young as nine "all the way up to people in their 80s," said therapist Elizabeth Penny.
"They're getting improved endurance, strength, coordination. I think it's very entertaining for them," she said.
The researchers at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis are working in collaboration with the University of Minnesota to design a study for measuring how patients' function are affected by Wii therapy.