Sport Science instructor creates video game for stroke rehabilitation

By Nicole Chiu, Communications Officer, Research & Innovation

While studying stroke patients’ neural control for walking, Douglas College Sport Science instructor Karine Hamm was surprised to discover there were few options for patients to continue working on their rehabilitation at home. This realization sparked her creativity and a recovery video game was invented.  

Changing the recovery process

Karine and her research team created a video game specifically to help with the recovery of “drop-foot,” a common impairment after a stroke that makes it difficult for individuals to lift their toes up during the swing phase of walking, which can cause tripping.

Karine explains that traditional rehabilitation involves lifting the toes up repeatedly against a rubber band; these strategies have been reported as repetitive, monotonous and ineffective.

“We developed a pedal that moves an object on the screen when the players lift their toes up. This encourages the motion recommended in traditional rehabilitation but has the potential to be fun, thus increasing motivation and promoting adherence to rehabilitation.”

The video game mimics the popular Brick Breaker game. She worked collaboratively with engineering instructor, Nakul Verma, as well as sport scientists, student research assistants and a neuro-rehabilitation clinic to make the video-game a reality.

This game is projected to be finished by the end of this year. Availability to the public is still to be determined.

The next phase

After intensive testing, the feedback from the rehabilitation community was that more and varied games and exercises were needed to sustain motivation in patients.

Karine and her team are partnering with the North Shore Stroke Recovery Center and Douglas College English instructor and cartoonist, Peter Wilkins, to develop a graphic novel that would address the challenges and success stories of stroke patients. Patients will navigate through panels of the graphic novel by controlling the foot pedal.

This new project along with a few others in the works will expand therapy options for patients and ensure they adhere to rehabilitation plans.

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