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Wii board helps stroke patients

19th January 2010

A skiing and snowboarding attachment for the Nintendo Wii video game system can help rehabilitate stroke victims, according to a recent Australian study.

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After taking apart the US$90 Wii Balance Board, the research team found that it performed as well as a laboratory-grade force platform costing about US$18,000.

Physiology clinics treating people for strokes or head traumas often cannot afford to buy force platforms.

The laboratory-grade devices measure what is known as center of pressure (COP), an important concept in measuring people's balance.

For the purposes of the study, the researchers dissected the board to see if the technology used to manufacture it was good enough for healthcare purposes.

In particular, they found its strain gauges and accelerometers and tested them next to labratory-grade medical devices using 30 study subjects who did not have any problems standing up.

The study subjects performed combinations of single- and double-legged standing tests, with their eyes both open and closed.

The devices fared similarly in terms of their COP.

The only area where the force platform was clearly superior to the Wii Balance Board was in its sensitivity to low levels of detectable change.

Study author Ross Clark of the University of Melbourne became curious about the video game device after learning that the US government considers the technology used to manufacture the Wii Remote to be as accurate as military-grade missile control technology.

Clark said that the video game peripheral could be used to assess rehabilitation after stroke, traumatic brain injuries and to examine standing balance in children who were born prematurely.

 


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