Hattiesburg Clinic Physical Therapists Utilize New Form of Treatment: Wiihabilitation

Feature story printed in:
Hattiesburg American, 8/05/2008
PT Moments, Fall 2008

          Eight-year-old Allison Ratliff, like most children her age, enjoys playing sports.  Right now, she is very enthusiastic about baseball.  “It’s so much fun,” Ratliff says.  “It’s really fun to bat.”  However, as Ratliff tells about her love for America’s favorite pastime, she’s not sitting in the dugout of a baseball diamond.  She’s standing in front of a television set in the physical and occupational therapy department of Hattiesburg Clinic.

            Ratliff, who broke her leg earlier this year and is undergoing physical therapy to strengthen her knee, is one of many physical therapy patients who have been participating in a new form of rehabilitation that some users have come to refer to as “Wiihabilitation.”  The therapy utilizes the Wii (pronounced we) video game console.  Released by Nintendo in late 2006, the console features a wireless remote controller that can detect movement by its user.  Instead of sitting in a chair only exercising your thumbs, Wii users actually have to interact with the game.  As with Ratliff and her baseball game, in order to hit the ball she has to swing her arms as if she’s swinging a bat.  “Playing the Wii helps me with my knee,” Ratliff adds.  “After you throw the ball you have to hop two times.  I couldn’t do that before and now I can.”

            Hattiesburg Clinic purchased the console earlier this year.  The Wii comes with a game called Wii Sports that requires users to mimic the motions used in various sports such as bowling, tennis, boxing, baseball, and golf.  The console began gaining notoriety shortly after its release when users began reporting sore muscles after playing the games – much like spending a day at the gym.  Physical therapists around the country took notice.  “Some of our patients were playing with it at home and reporting a lot of positive feedback,” said certified sports specialist Clint Hudson, PT.  The Clinic recently added a new program called Wii Fit in June.  The program comes with a balance board that allows users to do yoga, play balance games, do strength training, and even aerobics.  Army E4 Specialist Willie Lindsey is now in his fifteenth week of therapy at Hattiesburg Clinic after undergoing surgery to replace his ACL.  Lindsey recently tried out the new balance board during one of his therapy sessions.  The console evaluated his center of gravity as he pretended to snow ski, did lunges, tried out a few yoga poses, and even balanced on a tightrope.  “I have really been working to regain my balance since my surgery,” relates Lindsey.  “I have done strength training, balance training, and running as part of my therapy.  But the Wii has helped me with my balance more than anything.” 

            Hattiesburg Clinic is not just using the Wii to treat younger patients.  “There are a lot of activities that interest different people,” says Maxie Manning, PT.  “We can treat a lot of different patients with different conditions.”  Joyce Bain is an amputee who has been walking with the use of a prosthetic leg since 2004.  “When I got my prosthesis a therapist had to help me learn to walk on it while using crutches and then a cane and then without the help of either one,” explains Bain.  “Now that I can do that, I have to work to keep my lower body strength up.” 

            “She loves to come in here and play the games,” Manning adds as she observes Bain playing the bowling game.  “It makes her shift her weight and she’s having fun while she’s doing something therapeutic.” 

            Tommy Speed agrees.  Speed sustained knee and shoulder injuries in an automobile accident and has been playing the bowling game to help build muscle strength.  “I have really noticed an improvement in my condition,” says Speed.  “You don’t think about the pain as much.  It’s easier that your mind gets involved in the game.  You don’t feel like you are doing therapy.”

            Hattiesburg Clinic currently offers physical and occupational therapy at four locations — in the main Hattiesburg Clinic facility and in satellite clinics in Petal , Purvis, and the Lake Serene area.  For more information on Hattiesburg Clinic physical and occupational therapy services, please call 601-268-5757.


Caption Photo 1: Physical therapy patient Allison Ratliff tests her hula hoop skills on Hattiesburg Clinic’s Wii video game console as physical therapy student Alisha Farrish looks on.  Hattiesburg Clinic has begun using the Wii as a new treatment for patient rehabilitation.

 Caption Photo 2:  Army E4 Specialist Willie Lindsey performs lunges on Hattiseburg Clinic’s Wii Fit balance board as part of his physical therapy treatment.  Hattiesburg Clinic has begun using the Wii video game console as a new treatment for patient rehabilitation.