Weldon Patients Benefit from Use of Wii System

SPRINGFIELD — Nintendo’s Wii video-game system has long been popular with teens, allowing them to simulate the movements of boxing, bowling, or tennis from the comfort of their homes. Now the Wii system is gaining popularity in health care settings like Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital, as a tool to assist with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.


To use the Wii system, patients use a controller that is sensitive to their hand and arm movements to drive the activity or game on a computer screen. These movements mimic exercises used in various types of therapy to improve balance, coordination, range of motion, and cognition. But unlike traditional therapy, patients engaged in the competitiveness of the Wii games often forget that they are in a rehabilitative setting.

“I had a patient who liked to golf but needed assistance standing. We tried the Wii golf game, and after about 20 minutes, the patient was able to stand on his own and had re-established the functional ‘motor plans’ needed to play golf,” said physical therapist Robert Landauer, who has been using the Wii system since it arrived at Weldon. “The patient later asked when we would start his therapy session. He was having so much fun, he didn’t realize he was already doing therapy.”

This so-called ’Wii-habilitation’ is also used in occupational therapy at Weldon, to improve standing balance and endurance. Occupational therapist Sheryl Moriarty often asks her patients to stand while playing a game on the Wii, so that they will use their arms dynamically while maintaining their standing balance.

This action provides practice for the activities they will face after discharge from Weldon. “Most of the things you do at home are not static; you are standing, reaching into cabinets, doing laundry, etc.,” she said. “The Wii uses those same movements to some degree, but in a fun way.”

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