Virtual rehabilitation is more than just a game

It is estimated that 1 in every 400 children in the UK are affected by cerebral palsy. Currently there is no cure, but a range of treatments can help relieve symptoms and increase a child's sense of independence and self-esteem. These include physiotherapy, occupational therapy and medication to relieve muscle stiffness and spasms.

Working alongside partners including Alder Hey Children's Hospital, the Biomechanics team based at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences has conducted research into virtual rehabilitation to train postural control in children with cerebral palsy. Their award-winning custom built virtual reality computer game Goblin Post Office , developed with funding from The WellChild Trust, is used to train movement coordination of the pelvis and trunk. Inclusion of such a highly motivating modality in the physiotherapy of children has a great potential to improve control of the body’s core which in turn can improve movement function.

Now, a portable variant of the Goblin Post Office game, has been installed at The Movement Centre, which runs rehabilitation services for children with neuromuscular movement problems. This means that there is greater clinical access to the game and even more children with cerebral palsy can benefit from this virtual rehabilitation.

Dr Gabor Barton (Reader in Biomechanics) and Dr Malcolm Hawken (Research Officer in Biomechanics) delivered the necessary hardware and software from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences (RISES).

The Movement Centre’s Clinical Lead Pauline Holbrook commented:

“Dr Barton’s research outputs in virtual rehabilitation fed directly into setting up his game in our Centre thanks to external donations gratefully received from the GKN Sankey Employees Charity Trust, Telford. The game is now set up in our two treatment rooms and will become one of the many assessment methods related to Targeted Training. We see about 70 children in a year with cerebral palsy and we anticipate using the game with up to 50% of them.

“Clinical staff have been trained on the technical side of how to operate the game, naturally followed by some play time! One of the main attractive features of the game is that due to its underlying adaptive algorithm, the game speed reached can be used as a functional outcome measure during the rehabilitation of our patients. Such quantitative measure of movement function will make our clinical decision making more accurate, leading to better outcomes for our patients.”

Dr Penny Butler Research Coordinator at The Movement Centre added:

“In addition to enhancing the sophistication of quantifying the functional progression of our patients, many of our research projects can include the Goblin Post Office game. Our research collaboration with Dr Barton’s team will accelerate now, supported by having access to the games on our site.”


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