Patients say yes, yes, yes to "Wiihab"

What some are calling "Wiihab" is fast becoming a craze in rehabilitation centers across the country.

Wiihab is the use of Nintendo's Wii video game system as a physical therapy tool for patients recovering from strokes, broken bones, surgery and even combat injuries. The gaming system is said to provide patients with improved endurance, strength, coordination and entertainment all at the same time.

Wii games (especially sports games like baseball, bowling, boxing, golf and tennis) appear to be useful in physical therapy because they require body movements similar to traditional therapy exercises. But patients become so engrossed mentally they're almost oblivious to the rigor, says this AP article from CNN. Although Nintendo Co. doesn't market Wii's potential use in physical therapy, company representative Anka Dolecki said, "We are happy to see that people are finding added benefit in rehabilitation."

Still, there is no concrete scientific evidence that Wii is a viable option for physical therapy. Researcher Lars Oddsson, director of the Sister Kenny Research Center at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, wants to change this. He is currently working with the University of Minnesota to design a study that will measure patients' function before and after 'Wiihab'.

"You can certainly make a case that some form of endurance related to strength and flexibility and balance and cardio would be challenged when you play the Wii," but hard scientific proof is needed to prove it, Oddsson said.

On a lighter note, here is a Wiihab parody from YouTube.

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As a physical therapist, I cringe each time a read one of these articles on "Wiihab." Thank you pointing out both the humor and lack of science that is "Wiihab." I accidentally made a rant about this on my blog, NPA Think Tank. Physical therapists don't get much press on ScienceBlogs, so its a shame that when we's in the context of this silly non-sense! Thanks for this post, Karen.

I'm glad hospitals have found a productive use for the Wii; however, its true potential has yet to be proven. As I mentioned in my post regarding using the Wii as therapy, researchers at the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Center in Minneapolis are planning on doing a study on Wiihabilitation. I'll be anxious to see the results.