Mad for Wii-hab


Therapy patients give thumbs-up 

By Susan Christensen
Special to the Advocate

After suffering a few busted lips, Ray Ishee of Stringer gave up fist-fighting back in grade school.

But on a recent weekday, the 68–year-old willingly put up his dukes for a round of make-believe boxing. It’s part of his “Wii-habilitation” therapy at a Jackson hospital.

Staff at Methodist Rehabilitation Center began using the Nintendo Wii video game system in inpatient and outpatient therapy sessions in Jackson and Flowood a couple of months ago. And they say even elderly patients have come to embrace the chance to play virtual baseball, tennis, golf, bowling and boxing.

“Their initial response is they are not so sure about video games,” said Courtney Jones, a therapeutic recreation specialist at Methodist Rehab. “But after they start playing, they seem to really enjoy it.”

“I think it’s a lot of fun,” said Roy Catchings, 60, of Greenwood, who came to Methodist Rehab to recover from disc replacement surgery. “I forgot about my pain when I got into the game.”

Patients recovering from brain injury, stroke, other neurological illness or generalized weakness are good candidates for Wii-hab, said Methodist Rehab Therapy Services Director Suzy Mayer. “We are using it to improve patients’ physical motor skills and build their endurance,” she said. “It’s just a more dynamic, interactive way to get them to participate.”

As Catchings and Ishee recently squared off for a game of Wii tennis, Jones tallied the therapeutic benefits of the match.

‘It’s working on their standing tolerance and balance, upper extremity strength and active range of motion,” Jones said. Plus, the competitive aspect of Wii sports provides a welcome distraction from the daily grind of rehab.

 “If you’ve got a patient that doesn’t want to be challenged, this is a more entertaining approach,” Mayer said. “When you pull out the game system, patients get excited.”

In fact, patients seem so willing to do Wii-hab, Mayer believes it should be part of their discharge plan.

They’re more likely to use this than the exercise programs we normally send home,” she said. “They can set it up and do it independently and it’s fun.”