NEW DELHI: The rehabilitation department of Indian Spinal Injuries Centre has introduced a new and engaging form of rehabilitation: video games. This new form of virtual reality therapy has helped patients become more motivated and engaged during rehabilitation.
In a crowded rehab room, Vinod Kumar diligently stands on a balance board-a game console-and stares at the TV screen. He leans to the left, and on the screen the skier copies his movements. The goal of the skiing game is to reach the end of the slope and avoid obstacles, but the true goal is for Kumar to practice his balance.
Kumar, who suffered injury in his brachial plexus and spinal cord in a traffic accident two months ago, says he was surprised when he learnt he would be playing video games as rehabilitation. “But now it’s definitely my favourite form of rehabilitation,” he admits. “It’s not monotonous like the other forms of rehab. I feel mentally challenged and occupied while at the same time working my physical body.” Kumar is now an outpatient and is quickly on the mend thanks to, he says, using the gaming console.
According to Chitra Kataria, the principal of the department, virtual reality training drives patients to be more motivated and spend longer amounts of time working on their rehabilitation. “Rehabilitation can be very monotonous, and patients also suffer from depression or frustration with their body’s limits,” Kataria explains. “They are a lot more enthusiastic and engaged when they play the table tennis, archery, cycling or other games,” she says.
Patients must respond with specific movements to play the game. For example, movements required for the tennis game include shoulder abduction and flexion -moves that nurses would perform on patients in traditional therapy.
At present, seven to eight patients file into the small rehabilitation room every day, each training for 30 minutes to an hour. Since its introduction in January, 35 patients have undergone virtual reality therapy with amazing results. “There is definitely a faster rate of recovery in patients who have undergone virtual reality therapy,” says Kataria. Within the next few months, the is planning on installing a larger screen and broaden the programme to cover patients suffering from cognitive or respiratory problems, Parkinson’s disease and paediatric cases.