Your Health: Video games as physical therapy

Your Health: Video games as physical therapy
Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 5:27 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - More than 130 million Americans play video games, but for some, it’s about more than just fun.

Michael Heinrich loves playing video games, but unlike most gamers, who use standard controls, he needs to use a specialized adaptive console. That’s because he lost partial use of his hands after a motorcycle collision left him a quadriplegic.

“And you know, I can’t just push buttons, cause you know my thumbs don’t move down,” Heinrich said.

He couldn’t raise his arms over his head, so the controllers were placed up high to build strength.

“I was trying to strength train my triceps by hitting buttons and holding them up in the air for an extended period of time,” Heinrich said.

Therapeutic and adaptive gaming is used to help with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, stroke, amputation and other disabilities.

“So, we would put it towards their head if they were working towards putting their shirt on, we would put it towards their mouth if they were working to feed themselves,” said Dr. Robert Ferguson, with OTRL Occupational Therapy Clinical Specialist University of Michigan.

For many patients, the rehab doesn’t feel like hard work because they are so immersed in the game and for some -- like Michael -- it’s about more than physical improvements, it’s about being able to play games for fun as well. He’s one of 46 million gamers with disabilities.

“It let me engage into a community, let me be a part of something that is not just me working on my weights, but like me being able to play with my friends,” Heinrich said.

Many companies -- like Microsoft -- make adaptive controllers. They range in price from about $100-$1,000.

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