Video game technology helps MU physical therapists

2 years 3 months 5 days ago Monday, January 01 2018 Jan 1, 2018 Monday, January 01, 2018 4:16:00 PM CST January 01, 2018 in News
By: Matt Weller, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - MU researchers think they have found the next breakthrough in physical therapy: video games.

Researchers believe the same technology used to detect a gamer's movement or program players into their favorite games can be used to aid in injury recovery.

The technology tracks a person's movement and creates a visual output for a therapist to study. Researchers said it will make it easier for doctors and therapists to make more exact calculations on a patient's condition and flexibility.

"It works the same when video game technology works," said Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Trent Guess. "It takes a snapshot of a 3-D image of the front of your body and it fits a skeletal model to that."

"Currently, when we measure motion, we measure it with our eyes. We aren't able to put numbers on things," said Dr. Aaron Gray. "So with this technology, we are able to quickly and accurately measure motion and give a number or value to that motion."

Gray said the device will be especially helpful with knee injuries.

"We've looked at risk factors for people tearing their ACL, dislocating their knee cap, or even having runners knee. Medical research shows us that when athletes squat on a single leg that their knee caves in and they're at higher risk of injury," Gray said. "So some of our initial work is having athletes drop off of a box and onto the ground and then jumping as high as they can, then we can measure how much their knees cave in."

Researchers have been using the Microsoft Kinect for the study, which retails for just $100.

"Traditionally, motion analysis is done in expensive labs where the cost of equipment can be up to $150,000 and the motions sensors we are trying to use now are one one-thousandth of the cost," Gray said.

Gray said the cheaper alternative could allow future patients to do more in-home therapy.

"This could be something where you do exercises at home and get feedback from the video game system. Many people have played video games like the dancing games where the game tracks your movement and tells you whether you're doing it correctly or incorrectly," he said.

Gray said it's still unclear if the technology can help reduce recovery times, but initial testing shows it's possible. He said the next step will be more intensive testing to determine if the device can measure things like impact forces.

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