Strokes are detrimental to a person’s body and mind. It can damage the body in different ways, depending on where the stroke affected the person, and fully recovering is sometimes not in the forecast. Nearly 50 percent of stroke survivors need life-long assistance for everything, even to perform basic functions. Traditional physical therapy exercises can help one recover some of their bodily functions, but it may not be enough.


(Flickr/Ian Fitzpatrick)

(Flickr/Ian Fitzpatrick)

Dr. Judy Deutsch, a professor in the Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Sciences at Rutgers University has created a video game called V-Step which can aid in the recovery therapy used to treat stroke victims. Similar to the game “Dance Dance Revolution,” players move their arms and legs to fulfill a series of on-screen commands.


There has been a great increase in scientific research suggesting that these types of video games can significantly improve physical therapy outcomes. A patient may be more likely to want to play an hour of video games a day than do an hour of exercise a day. Creating games that better engage the user will increased motivation levels. This could lead to longer sessions and significant improvement in the patient’s recovery.

“…If exercise is just at the level of the muscle, and it is repetitive nothing, nothing will transfer to real world actions. So you want it to be engaging your cognition as well as your movement. In other words, when you play the game, you’re feeling it. You are in the zone,” said Deutsch.


Users can connect with one another through leaderboards and online messaging systems, all of which are activated by physical activity. V-Step can even be programmed to meet the specific needs of the user and work with their personal abilities, unlike other actively engaging video games, such as the Nintendo Wii.


Using the XBox Kinect system, data can be collected on the metrics of the therapy, such as the degree to which an elbow or a knee can be bent. Paul Diefenbach, a researcher and game developer with Drexel University’s RePlay Lab, has been working on this feature with pediatric physical therapist Dr. Maggie O’Neil to help physical therapists track their patients’ progress, as well as let researchers determine if this type of video game therapy is superior to traditional physical therapy.


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