The Nintendo Wii Balance Board may improve standing balance in children with spastic hemiplegia (SHE), a type of cerebral palsy (CP), according to a new study.
The study, “Does Nintendo Wii Balance Board Improve Standing Balance? A Randomised Controlled Trial In Children With Cerebral Palsy,” was published in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine.
The most common types of cerebral palsy are SHE (a condition that affects the arm and leg on one side of the body) and spastic diplegia (SDI; a condition that primarily affects the lower body). A common disability in these conditions is the difficulty in maintaining balance while standing up, which has a negative impact in daily life activities.
During childhood, the central nervous system has great plasticity, thus physical therapy interventions at this stage may improve rehabilitation outcomes.
The objective of the study was to investigate whether kids with CP could benefit from using platforms such as the Nintendo Wii Balance Board to improve their standing balance.
The study enrolled 32 SHE or SDI children (mean age 10 years old), who were randomly assigned to receive Wii-therapy or standard physiotherapy. All patients received 18 sessions, three sessions per week. Wii therapy sessions consisted of training exercises using the Wii Fit Plus with the Nintendo Wii Balance Board for 30 minutes, whereas standard physiotherapy consisted of stretching, flexibility, strengthening and balance exercises for 40 minutes.
Each patient then performed six standing-still trials (30 seconds each), three with eyes opened and three with eyes closed. Researchers analyzed standing balance at the start of the study and every two weeks to assess improvement during treatment, measured by quantification of center-of-pressure sway (CoPSway), standard deviation in the medial-lateral (SDML) and the anterior-posterior (SDAP) directions, and velocity in both directions. Patients were also followed during a follow-up period of one month to determine the effectiveness after treatment.
Results indicated that Wii therapy significantly reduced the CoPSway and SDAP (and, as a result, improved their standing balance) in the eyes-open condition, compared to standard physiotherapy, but improvement was only significant among the SHE children. These benefits lasted between two to four weeks after the end of the therapy.
“Wii-therapy over a period of six weeks significantly improved standing balance in children and adolescents with CP,” the authors wrote in their report. “These improvements were significantly greater than in [standard physiotherapy], which did not improve balance over a similar period. Further analysis found that significant improvements in balance control only occurred in SHE and that positive effects wane two to four weeks after the end of the intervention.”