Julianne Smith stared intently at the large-screen television, moving her body in sync with a tilted table on-screen.
The 15-year-old Scottsville girl was playing the Nintendo Wii game “Table Tilt,” which requires the player to get some video balls to go into a video hole in the video table.
“It’s awesome,” she said of the Wii. “When I work with it, I don’t want to get off of it.”
The teen wasn’t working on it solely for fun, though. It’s part of her therapy at The Medical Center at Scottsville, which has been using the gaming system for inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation therapy at the hospital and its Cal Turner Extended Care Pavilion for about six months.
“We’ve been using it more for our long-term care patients, but we’re also trying it with our outpatients,” said Lisa Cummings, rehabilitation manager at The Medical Center at Scottsville. “As it becomes easy, you can increase the difficulty just like with any other exercise.”
The hospital uses a variety of games from Wii Fit and Wii Sports.
“It depends on what we’re trying to achieve,” Cummings said. “(For example) to improve shoulder range of motion, we do a sport that requires that motion.”
In Julianne’s case, she is working to improve her balance, which can be off because of cerebral palsy.
“We focus on balance and core stability,” said Tracy Holland, a physical therapy assistant who works with Julianne. “We work two days a week with 15 minutes on the Wii at the end of treatment.”
In the three weeks that Julianne has been using the Wii, her balance and body awareness have improved, Holland said.
“If I let her, she’d do it the whole hour,” she said, smiling as she watched Julianne play a game that simulated her walking a tightrope.
Studies show that using Wii for physical therapy can help with different conditions, including cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and muscle and joint injuries, Cummings said.
“It helps with functional mobility, mood, coordination and visual and perception skills development. It can be used with patients of all ages,” she said. “It does not replace traditional therapy. We do a majority of traditional physical therapy treatment, and then we may do 15 minutes or so of the Wii.”
Cummings persuaded the hospital administration to purchase a Wii after she read about the benefits that have been seen in nursing home patients who used it.
“I thought it would be good mentally and physically. It’s something they can continue at home,” she said. “It’s fun to do and it benefits them. We hope to use it more.”
Julianne hopes to continue using it. She notices that her balance and walking have improved.
“I used to walk with a limp, and now I’m walking straight,” she said. “I used to walk on my toes, but I’m not walking on my toes now. I think Wii Fit is helping.”