Video Game Technology Aids in Physical Therapy

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Motion-based technology has been shown to aid physical therapists, clinicians, and athletic trainers in analyzing movement, although it is often incredibly expensive. Some motion-based laboratories can cost upwards of $100,000. Researchers from the University of Missouri have recently set out to bypass that financial burden by substituting these labs with alternate methods, which include the use of video game.

The research team recently discovered that the depth cameras used by video game systems can provide health care providers with objective information to improve patient care. According to Trent Guess, associate professor of physical therapy and orthopedics, the team has discovered through testing of a system called Reflexion “can provide reasonable measurement of hip and knee angles.”

“This means that for only a few hundred dollars, this technology may be able to provide clinics and physical therapists with sufficient information on the lower limbs to assess functional movement.”

 

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The research team used a video game system’s depth camera to capture movement from participants doing drop vertical jumps and lateral leg raises. The movements were measured using traditional motion-capture technology as well. This method involved placing markets on their skin. The tests showed that the systems produced similar results.

“If a patient is trying to move their hip to the right, but they twist their hip, the system will provide feedback on the screen, telling them how to perform the exercise correctly,” said Colleen Michelle Jones in a Jacksonville Business Journal article titled, Brooks Rehab Bringing Microsoft Technology for Physical Therapy into Patients’ Homes. “It picks up the nuances that are really important to a physical therapist.”

These findings were the result of a collaboration started by Aaron Gray, a sports medicine physician. Interest in easily accessible technology led Gray to research less costly yet efficient methods for helping athletes avoid issues such as knee injuries. Through the collaboration with Guess and other researchers, he tested the idea.

“Assessment of movement is essential to evaluating injury risk, rehabilitative outcomes, and sport performance,” said Gray. “Our research team is working to bring motion analysis testing, which is expensive and time-consuming, into orthopedics offices, physical therapy clinics, and athletic facilities using inexpensive and portable technology. Our research has shown that depth camera sensors from video games provide a valid option for motion assessment.”

The technology can also aid patients suffering from cerebral palsy, the most common pediatric physical disability. Cerebral palsy is caused by early damage to the motor centres of the developing brain, and it limits physical activity. In addition to surgical procedures and pharmaceutical management, treatment includes a significant amount of neurodevelopment therapy and rehabilitation. This new system can provide the same benefits more easily and at a fraction of the cost.

 

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“New studies from researchers at the University of Missouri provide evidence
that inexpensive video game technology can help health care providers discover injury risk and track rehabilitation progress among athletes and physical therapy patients.”

 

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