Experts Find How Video Game Based Stroke Therapy Is Just As Successful As Face-To-Face Therapy


Stroke sufferers can tell you one thing that’s sure – life changes when it happens. Strokes come like a thief in the night. Many of its patients are oftentimes caught unaware because they haven’t experienced warning signs in the previous days, or even months.

Their mental of physical condition is affected, and for many, therapy is what’s recommended. Experts claim that therapy must be done immediately. The first month is crucial for them because when they get the help they need, they also improve by leaps and bounds.

After suffering from a stroke, patients may sometimes, if not most, lose feeling in their arm. They also may experience weakness and reduced movement, thus limiting the ability to complete basic daily tasks that once came so easily for them.

Traditional rehabilitation therapy that comes after a stroke can be immensely intensive. It’s also time-consuming, expensive, and inconvenient. This becomes especially challenging for those who live in the rural areas who need to travel long distances to fulfill the in-person therapy appointments that have been scheduled for them.

In order to cater to these patients, a team of researchers, including one at the University of Missouri, made use of a motion-sensor video game called Recovery Rapids. This was designed to allow patients who are recovering from a stroke as they embark on a healthier and better path. The game was designed to improve the motor skills they lost and the affected arm movements they experience while they stay home. The therapists simply check in periodically with via telehealth.

They observed the model they created and saw how the game-based therapy also led to improved outcomes that were very like the highly regarded form of in-person therapy, known as constraint-induced therapy. The best part of this is that the program requires only one-fifth of the therapist hours. They’ve seriously looked into this new approach because it saves time and money while making sure that the patients enjoy their convenience and safety. This works because telehealth has boomed in popularity now since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As an occupational therapist, I have seen patients from rural areas drive more than an hour to come to an in-person clinic three to four days a week, where the rehab is very intensive, taking three to four hours per session, and the therapist must be there the whole time,” Rachel Proffitt, assistant professor in the MU School of Health Professions, said.

Proffitt also added, “With this new at-home gaming approach, we are cutting costs for the patient and reducing time for the therapist while still improving convenience and overall health outcomes, so it’s a win-win. By saving time for the therapists, we can also now serve more patients and make a broader impact on our communities.”

Looking closely, they have also come to see how traditional rehab home exercises can be very repetitive and monotonous. In fact, some patients get bored and find themselves not adhering to what’s required of them. As for the Recovery Rapids game, this helps patients get excited for rehabilitation by making them complete a variety of challenges in a fun and interactive environment. The researchers also noticed the difference because they found that the patients adhered to the prescribed exercises better.

“The patient is virtually placed in a kayak, and as they go down the river, they perform arm motions simulating paddling, rowing, scooping up trash, swaying from side to side to steer, and reaching overhead to clear out spider webs and bats, so it’s making the exercises fun,” Proffitt said. “As they progress, the challenges get harder, and we conduct check-ins with the participants via telehealth to adjust goals, provide feedback and discuss the daily activities they want to resume as they improve,” she added.

Almost 800,000 Americans suffer from a stroke every single year. This was according to the CDC. They also found that around two-thirds of stroke survivors have reported how they cannot use their affected limbs to do normal daily activities. Things such as making a cup of coffee, cooking a meal, or playing with their grandchildren has been more challenging for them. Getting better was always their goal, and for some, they needed a program that was flexible. More importantly, they needed one that catered to their personal needs.

“I am passionate about helping patients get back to all the activities they love to do in their daily life,” Proffitt said. She further explained, “Anything we can do as therapists to help in a creative way while saving time and money is the ultimate goal.”

This research had been recently published in eClinicalMedicine, which is an open-access journal from The Lancet.