July 25, 2007

The toy that has been flying off store shelves since before its launch last holiday season is finding life as more than a toy.

The Nintendo Wii, the video game system that uses motion-sensing technology to control the action on screen, is earning a spot in rehab centers helping victims of debilitating diseases and accidents recover.

The game that comes with the system, Wii Sports, features boxing, bowling, tennis, baseball, and golf—all of which are controlled not by traditional button mashing, but by performing the motions as if the user was actually playing the game. Swing too early, and the fastball will blow by. Set up a hard backhand and the on-screen counterpart smashes the ball over the net.

The Wii does what more traditional therapies attempt to accomplish—allowing patients to work on weight bearing and coordination, increasing strength and stability, and increasing fine and gross motor skills.

According to the Associated Press, the first hospital thought to have used the Wii for rehab is the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The PTs using it as a tool say that having patients that are excited about physical rehabilitation makes all the difference.

The game is still a hard-to-find item due to its popularity. If one can be found on store shelves, the Wii retails for $249 and includes the sports game package.

Source: The Associated Press