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Toni Talks about PT Today

The Wonder of Wii

Published July 3, 2012 12:39 PM by Toni Patt

A new piece of equipment has found its way into our department, a Nintendo Wii. Up until last weekend I'd never even seen one, much less played with one. The literature is full of articles describing how to use the Wii therapeutically, particularly with the geriatric population. The evidence says it is effective. Nowhere did I read how much fun it is.

All of the patients I've tried on it have enjoyed it. We alternate between the Wii fitness and sports. I'm usually holding onto them while they play so can somewhat control the difficulty level. When I'm not helping them win, I feel myself playing along with them. I've spent the past several lunch periods playing the various games, trying to figure out the strategies so I can give appropriate hints about what to do.

Most of the games fall into two categories, either weight-shift or hand-eye coordination. Tennis, bowling and the like can be played by moving only the arm connected to the controller. But actually playing the game requires coordination between seeing the TV screen and activating the controller. Weight-shift games force the person to shift in space to advance. The patients are so intent on winning they forget that they're moving around.

Obviously a certain level of cognition is required. Patients with advanced dementia or severe aphasia aren't going to be able to use it. It is very vision-dependent so decent vision is a must. Yep, I'd put patients with neglect or visual field cut on it. I think they'd learn to scan pretty quickly. My only concern is the heavy visual reliance may create another balance problem down the road.

I'm not sure how I'll feel about it if I'm still using it six months to a year from now. Patients will come and go but I'll still be playing the same games at the same level. I might get sick of it. Maybe we'll be able to add more games to our unit later on or I'll come up with unique twists to things. I'm already wondering what happens if you put foam over the balance board.

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