Rehab Patients Turn to Wii

One of the hottest video gaming systems is a hot new tool in rehab. Seems the games on Nintento's Wii system can be put to a serious use that's been dubbed "Wii-hab."

Dana is among those giving it a try at Kansas Rehab in Topeka. A car accident just over a year ago left Dana with a traumatic injury, and without many of the skills most take for granted. He had to learn how to walk, talk and do pretty much everything else all over again, he says.

Getting it all back is a lot of work, but the Wii is helping. Dana says it's entertaing, plus it helps him work on a variety of skills.

Karen Farron, an occupational therapist at Kansas Rehab, says games on the Wii fit put patients through the physical paces one might expect, but it also helps them work on balance and upper and lower body coordination. Plus, she says the Wii has programs that address skills like visual perception and sustained attention, which are important parts of day to day tasks.

Dana's therapy extends to specialized equipment, too, including a device called the Auto Ambulator, which suspends him above a treadmill, adjusting how much of his own weight he bears while regaining a normal walking stride. But that's not something he can take home with him. Therapists like Farron have learned the Wii is a relatively inexpensive item patients can purchase for their home that will help them work on issues they address at the clinic.

Not only that, Farron says it's very engaging. It not only makes patients want to do their exercises, it also helps families get involved in helping their loved one.

Dana's dad, Carol, says it's challenging for everyone to try. Plus, he says it's fun. Not only that, he says he can tell the games are challenging Dana's mind, but then he sees his son work it out and make improvements.

With those results, Dana hopes he'll win the ultimate prize of a full recovery.

"I've got distance to go," he says, "but I'm making headway."

The Wii games are being used to help people with everything from strokes, broken bones and surgeries to multiple sclerosis and combat injuries.


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