Video Games Can Help Kids with Cerebral Palsy Improve Upper Body Movement, According to Study

Video Games Can Help Kids with Cerebral Palsy Improve Upper Body Movement, According to Study

A new study suggests that video games might improve upper body movement in children with cerebral palsy (CP) and adherence to physical therapy. The report, Using Free Internet Videogames in Upper Extremity Motor Training for Children with Cerebral Palsy, appeared in the journal Behavioral Sciences.

Movement therapy is often used to help improve upper body motion in children with cerebral palsy. This type of therapy involves high intensity, repetitive tasks that children can find boring. In many cases, the treatment is unsuccessful because children are not motivated to complete it. But video games could make movement therapy more appealing to kids with cerebral palsy.

The study included four children ages 8-17 with cerebral palsy. Led by Marisa Sevick of Creighton Pediatric Therapy in Omaha, Nebraska, along with researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, the scientists hoped to find out whether video games helped improve upper body motion and if children were more motivated to complete this type of therapy.

The investigators used free internet videogames with the Microsoft Kinect motion sensor and Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit software (FAAST) to detect the range of motion.

Researchers found the intervention was possible to be used both in the laboratory and at home, and that it allows the assessment of pre- and post- impairment, as well as motor function and performance. The team reported that children were highly motivated to play the video games; however, the study did not include measurements of whether motor function improved with the use of video games.

In their study report, the researchers concluded “the use of inexpensive hardware and software in conjunction with free Internet video games has the potential to be very motivating in helping to improve the upper extremity abilities of children with CP.”

The team noted, however, that although the initial results are promising, more studies are needed. “Future work should include results from additional participants and from a control group in a randomized controlled trial to establish efficacy.”

Cerebral palsy is the most common childhood movement disorder. It is associated with many symptoms, including difficulty walking, problems with movement, rigidity, failure to thrive, and learning disabilities. Interventions that improve movement in children with cerebral palsy are greatly needed, and further study of video games will be of great interest to clinicians as a possible treatment tool.