The Wii has been a top seller in the game console market for years and continues to become more prevalent in homes around the world. Unlike gaming systems such as the Xbox and the PS3, playing games on the Wii often involves more gross motor skills than fine motor skills. Used correctly this makes the Wii potentially effective in improving coordination, balance, range of motion as well as general strength.
Physical therapists are increasingly bringing the Wii into the rehabilitation setting. Patients see it as a great alternative to often boring and repetitive exercises programs. The incorporation of gross limb and body movements into a game setting seems to keep patients much more engaged.
Popular therapy games include tennis and bowling as well as games like ‘Wii Fit’ which directly focused on actual balance and strength training. Not only can these games can be played individually but they can also be played by multiple players at the same time, which can increase engagement even more.
The Wii is being used in many different rehabilitation settings such as basic health maintenance in the elderly, youth physical therapy, stroke rehabilitation, post-surgical rehabilitation and brain injury rehabilitation. Clinicians feel that the benefits are even more broad and may aid in stress reduction as well as offering benefits to the treatment of diabetes, asthma and even heart disease. An early case study in PT Journal found that the rehabilitation program of a of a cerebral palsy when augmented with the Wii resulted in “positive outcomes at the impariment and functional levels”.
The price point on the gaming systems is very appealing as well. In an industry where equipment is usually very expensive, the appeal of the small $250 cost of a console, a cost that includes several games and a controller, is hard to deny. Most equipment in a rehab setting is very specialized for the small rehabilitation market; small in relation the the mass appeal of a commercial product like the Wii.
As the Nintendo Wii becomes more prevalent in the treatment programs for many conditions there is one condition that we may see begin to proliferate; the dreaded ‘Nintendonitis.’