Ready Player One: Video Games Provide Effective Post-Stroke Therapy

Recovering from a stroke is an uphill battle. Those with the most success often receive both motor rehabilitation and behavioral interventions (e.g., goal setting, problem solving, self-monitoring). Recovery is greatest among those who have access to a Constraint-Induced Movement (CI) regimen—rehabilitation that is not restricted by therapist time, costs, and access. Unfortunately, many stroke survivors are unable to access these resources because of barriers such as geographic location, travel burden, insurance restrictions, and time deficiencies. Given these limitations, one study explored different types of rehabilitation regimens and discovered that playing video games may be just the solution to help stroke patients overcome these barriers.

To assess how different rehabilitation regimens can help stroke survivors, researchers examined 167 community-dwelling adults who had experienced a stroke within the last six months and required rehabilitation to regain use of their paretic arm. Participants were assigned one of four treatment regimens to complete over a span of three weeks. Those receiving the self-gaming and tele-gaming regimens were given gaming systems and were prescribed 15 hours of game play, requiring the affected arm to engage in motor movement. Participants prescribed these regimens were also given five hours of in-person behavioral therapy and video behavioral teletherapy, respectively. Those prescribed the traditional therapy regimens received five hours of in-person therapy and instructions on how to do therapy at home. Finally, those prescribed the Constraint-Induced Movement (CI ) regimen were given unlimited behavioral and motor interventions.

Researchers found that participants in the self-gaming and tele-gaming group exhibited better recovery than those in the traditional therapy group. Additionally, those in the tele-gaming group (coupling gaming and telehealth visits) exhibited similar mobility improvements as those who received CI therapy, indicating that stroke survivors can literally receive therapy from home and receive the same therapeutic benefits as someone with unlimited therapeutic resources.

In addition to providing stroke survivors with the cost-effective opportunity to receive treatment from home, gaming offers survivors unlimited and customized treatment options tailored to their deficiencies and recovery progress. Stroke survivors should no longer have to worry about barriers complicating treatment, increasing the likelihood of successfully regaining mobility.


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Gauthier, L. V., Nichols-Larsen, D. S., Uswatte, G., Strahl, N., Simeo, M., Proffitt, R., … & Borstad, A. (2022). Video game rehabilitation for outpatient stroke (VIGoROUS): A multi-site randomized controlled trial of in-home, self-managed, upper-extremity therapy. EClinicalMedicine43, 10.1239.

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