When Lisa Cline told Orville H. Cannedy — who had difficulty even standing following surgery — that he was going to play golf as part of rehab, he had his doubts. EMBARGOED UNTIL MONDAY, JUNE 30.
When Lisa Cline told Orville H. Cannedy — who had difficulty even standing following surgery — that he was going to play golf as part of rehab, he had his doubts.
The 80-year-old’s reaction when she told him he was going to play it on a Nintendo Wii? The word incredulous comes to mind.
“She said, ‘We’re gonna play Wii,’ and I thought to myself, what in God’s green Earth is Wii?” Cannedy said, laughing. “I’d never heard of it before.”
But it wasn’t long before Cannedy, an avid golfer from Springfield, was studying holes and swinging for fairways to the point of exhaustion on Memorial Medical Center’s new video game system.
“The last hole his legs were shaking,” said Cline, a recreational therapist who lobbied to get the Wii. “I said, ‘You’d better sit down Orville.’ He said, ‘One last hole.’”
The Wii utilizes motion-sensing technology, with on-screen characters mimicking real life hand movements. In “Wii Sports,” players actively compete in tennis, golf, boxing, baseball and bowling by pantomiming hand motions used in the sports themselves; boxers throw air punches, pitchers hurl pretend baseballs and golfers such as Cannedy swing imaginary golf clubs.
“You think of a Nintendo Wii gaming system as being very fun but not therapeutic,” said Teresa Reiser, director of neuromuscular sciences at Memorial. “But (you) look at the application and how this tool — and it literally is a tool — incorporates range of motion, balance, coordination, visual awareness, tracking skills, attention, endurance: all of a sudden you have all of the elements of a very rigorous therapy program.”
Perhaps the biggest reason “Wiihab” is effective is that patients are given something to take their mind off exercises that literally and figuratively are a pain.
Similar to how one can play sports and not tire as easily as when simply exercising, playing Wii in lieu of mundane physical therapy can help make exhausting activities fun.
Robert Wilson Sr. suffered a stroke in April, and was discharged from the hospital last month. The Rochester man said that when he got too tired to do therapy exercises, he still had plenty of energy for bowling on Wii.
“I think sometimes we catch on — ‘Oh, if you’re done with therapy then you’re too tired for therapeutic rec, then,’” Cline said. “It’s just like with kids, if you can’t eat your green beans then you’re too full to have ice cream.”
“You’re never too full to have ice cream,” added Wilson, 58.
Standing for extended periods of time playing Wii has helped Wilson regain much of his balance, an important step in stroke recovery. Wiihab also has helped him with vision problems.
“A lot of times with a stroke you lose your vision field,” Cline said. “He couldn’t see things with his left side — his brain wouldn’t tell his eyes to look that way.”
By forcing his mind to focus on the video game, he effectively tricks his brain into looking left, getting exercise all the while.
“I get tired easily and it will help build up my endurance,” Wilson said. “When you’re doing something you like, you can do more of it. I’m not gonna do this exercise, but I’ll play this game one more time.”
Cline uses the Wii primarily with patients recovering from strokes or spinal cord injuries. But as a recreational therapist, she focuses on more than just physical recovery.
She’s taken patients dancing, fishing and cooking, all in an effort to get them comfortable in the real world.
“What I see mostly is people go home from here but stay at home rather than going out,” said Sonali Bhole, a physical therapist at Memorial. “And their health gets worse because they’re scared.”
One patient, who suffered from severe burns, was so self-conscious about the burns on his face that he was reluctant to leave his room. Socializing was out of the question.
Then Cline introduced him to the Wii, ostensibly to build up arm strength — he struggled to lift a glass of water — but with ulterior motives in mind.
“Someone else came in and started playing with him,” Cline recalls. “He didn’t say anything about his face. (After that) he realized that it wasn’t as big a deal as he thought it was.”
“One of the problems I had was that I couldn’t follow through on anything. I’d start something and then I couldn’t remember the steps to keep on going,” Wilson said. “Like getting out of the car, I’d forget that I have to unbuckle the seatbelt first before I had to get out. So with this here, you’re playing a game so you’ve got to remember what you gotta do next.
“If you failed in here it was OK ’cause you’re by yourself. You’re not out on a bowling alley falling flat on your face or something.”
Readjusting to everyday life is particularly important for Wilson, who plans to return to work at AT&T once he’s able. Wilson has continued his Wiihab at home with his wife, Linda, using a Wii borrowed from neighbors. He can’t afford one of his own, and his insurance company doesn’t see much therapeutic value in video games.
But that isn’t stopping his physical therapists from recommending them.
“Life is not just walking,” Bhole said. “You need to get back into fun stuff.”
There’s not much that can be done to revolutionize a push-up. But that didn’t stop Nintendo from trying.
Added to the Wii’s video game library in May, the “Wii Fit” acts as a virtual fitness trainer. Users take part in balance exercises, strength training and aerobics without ever leaving home.
The game keeps track of your weight and body mass index using the included balance board. Activities include yoga, hula hooping and a repertoire of traditional strength builders such as push-ups and lunges.
But at its core, the “Wii Fit” stays true to its gaming heritage. Users have to unlock additional exercises and mini-games include skiing, hitting soccer headers and jogging in place. You can even take the Wii controller with you and go for a jog around the house if you want, but you’d miss out on the frenzied stamping in place that the footraces humorously devolve into.
“Wii Fit” retails for $89.99, but good luck finding it. Like the Wiis systems, the game is scarce, leading to mark-ups upwards of $150 on eBay.com.
There’s “Wii Sports,” “Wii Play” and “Wii Fit.” Maybe next, Nintendo should make a “Wii Doctor.”
Ryan T. DuRocher, a physician at Lincoln Chiropractic Clinic in Springfield, said he has seen an increase of video game injuries since the Wii system came out.
He said the ease of the system’s use has enabled many people, especially the elderly, to take part in activities their bodies aren’t used to. And since it’s a video game, people don’t take the same precautions they would if exercising normally.
“I definitely think they need to stretch, plus it’s intense involvement— people are focused on the screen and it’s competitive and stressful,” DuRocher said.
The most common Wii injuries? Tendonitis and elbow and shoulder strains. But DuRocher said that if people aren’t more careful, he expects to see more serious knee and ankle injuries as the new “Wii Fit” exercise game gains popularity.
Brian Eason can be reached at (217) 788-1531 or email@example.com.