kenn-sailThe results of the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s pilot study indicate that using a virtual therapeutic sailing simulator can serve as a key part of rehabilitation post-spinal cord injury (SCI).

In a news release from the Baltimore-based organization, it notes that the study’s findings suggest that using a hands-on sailing simulator during a 12-week period assisted participants in safely learning sailing skills in a controlled environment. This in turn, researchers say, improved their quality of life, allowing them to participate in a recreational sport.

Alberto Recio, MD, RPT, PTRP, study author, physician, the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute, designates sports and recreation as very important components in the rehabilitation process. These components improve not only physical well-being, Recio says, but also improve overall quality of life for patients who have sustained SCIs.

The study reportedly encompassed participants who had sustained chronic SCIs more than 6 months prior to beginning the use of the Virtual Sailing VSail-Trainer, a sailing simulator available for patients with paralysis. The release notes that the stationary sailboat cockpit is motorized and features specialized software engineered to allow patients to navigate the boat around a virtual course, much as they would an actual sailboat in the water. The technology also features electronic sensors, designed to provide patients with real-time feedback that mirrors their movement and allows them to control wind strength and water conditions.

Participants had no previous sailing experience and worked with the simulator for weekly 1-hour sessions for 12 weeks. Therapists assessed a range of physical and neurological indicators, and compared the results to measurements taken prior to beginning the training program. Participants were also required to complete a questionnaire at the beginning and end of the study, which sought to evaluate quality of life and self-esteem.

The results revealed that all patients demonstrated rapid and substantial improvement in their sailing scores. All patients also exhibited a significant positive increase in overall quality of life, including increased self-confidence and sense of accomplishment. The release also reports upon completion of the training program, subjects were able successfully sail and perform specific maneuvers on the water at sailing center in Baltimore.

“We are very pleased with the results of this unique training program and hope that this type of recreational tool can also help in the rehabilitation of patients with other disabilities,” Recio adds.

Kennedy Krieger Institute echoes Recio’s sentiments in the release, noting that while the pilot study encompassed SCI patients, the approach could hold promise for patients with a wide range of injuries such as limb loss and brain injury.

[Source: Kennedy Krieger Institute]