Games in Healthcare

Military Brain Injury Treatment Centers Armed with Games

A Soldier Using a Driving SimulatorThe US Department of Defense has been using new technology in its work with returning troops to better identify and treat brain injuries. Treatment centers have been increasing their efforts, thanks in part to the use of video games, so that veterans and returning troops get the assistance they need.

Opened in September 2008, the Fort Campbell, KY brain injury center has already screened about 400 soldiers for traumatic brain injuries and is currently treating about 60 cases. There, soldiers go through a battery of tests to evaluate different cognitive abilities. Read More...

Using vision tests, a driving simulator and even a Nintendo Wii, a soldier's visual recognition skills, reaction time and hand-eye coordination are evaluated. Once an individual's deficiencies are identified, therapy can be designed to help retrain the brain to overcome those problems, explains Dr. David Twillie, Director the brain injury care center at Fort Campbell.

Another facility, the Warrior Recovery Center at Fort Carson, CO was opened this May. The new center took its lead from other military posts, but stands out with its multidimensional tactics in assisting soldiers victim of traumatic brain injuries.

The Fort Carson facility features a kitchen and laundry area for soldiers to practice re-adjusting to household tasks. They also employ a driving simulator to evaluate a soldier's response time, their ability to concentrate and their degree of impulsivity. And soon, it will add a Nintendo Wii with accessories to help returning servicemen retrain their brains. The Warrior Recovery Center is also providing support through biofeedback, which helps many learn essential relaxation techniques.

“Troops referred here have their cases reviewed by nearly a dozen health care specialists such as doctors, counselors, occupational therapists, a psychologist and others,” said Maj. Karl Brewer, one of the doctors working at the center.

But recently returning troops are not the only ones taking advantage of video games to improve their lives. Since March 2009, the Veteran's Administration Outpatient Clinic in Viera, FL has also added a Nintendo Wii to its treatment options. The center welcomes any veteran who seeks health support.

"Whether they've had balance problems, muscle cramping or are recovering from a stroke, it serves as a very therapeutic instrument," said Troy Rush, physical therapist at the Viera Clinic. "It's also a good way to take their minds off the actual therapy, while acting as more of a game. A lot of the patients have also played these sports in their past, and it's a great way for them to get back to it."