Playing games on a Nintendo Wii console plus standard care may improve grip strength and hand function and decrease muscle stiffness in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy, researchers suggest.
Their study, “Effect of Wii training on hand function in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy,” was published in the journal Physiotherapy Theory and Practice.
Hemiplegia — the paralysis of one side of the body, primarily affecting the upper limbs, including the hands — affects 20-30% of people with cerebral palsy.
The use of the hand in hemiplegic cerebral palsy children is impaired, but early intervention can slow or halt the loss of hand function.
Playing video games has been shown to carry therapeutic benefits for a wide range of clinical syndromes, including cerebral palsy.
A previous study has shown that playing video games improved visual-perceptual processing, balance, and mobility in a child with a form of cerebral palsy known as spastic diplegia, with symptoms such as an especially high and constant “tightness” or “stiffness” of the muscles of the lower extremities of the body.
Although there has been only one randomized trial of video games, which found that six weeks of Wii training plus usual care did not improve coordination or hand function in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy, there was a trend toward increased grip strength and caregivers found that children used their hands more than standard care only after the Wii study.
Researchers from Cairo University in Egypt hypothesized that “this result may have been due to the insufficient dose of training.”
They investigated whether 12 weeks of Wii training could decrease spasticity — muscle stiffness — and improve grip strength and hand function in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy.