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Video game tech cuts cost of high-end physical therapy

A depth camera usually used with a video game console can give health care providers objective information that could improve patient care for thousands of dollars less than similar technology, researchers report.

Motion-based lab technology can help physical therapists, clinicians, and athletic trainers analyze how we move, but it also is very expensive. Some motion labs can cost upward of $100,000.

“In testing the system, we are seeing that it can provide reasonable measurement of hip and knee angles,” says Trent Guess, associate professor of physical therapy and orthopedics at the University of Missouri.

“This means that for only a few hundred dollars, this technology may be able to provide clinics and physical therapists with sufficient information on the lower limbs to assess functional movement,” Guess says.

Guess and the team of researchers used the depth camera to capture movement from participants doing drop vertical jumps and lateral leg raises. They also measured participants’ movements using traditional motion-capture technology that involves placing markers on the skin. Researchers found that the systems produced similar results.

video game tech in health care
Mackenzie Sconce jumps off a platform while Aaron Gray measures her biomechanics using a video game motion sensor. (Credit: Rachel Coward/U. Missouri)

Aaron Gray, a sports medicine physician with University of Missouri Health Care, was also interested in how easily accessible technology could help athletes avoid knee injuries. He began working with a team of researchers to test the idea, including Guess and his colleagues.

“Assessment of movement is essential to evaluating injury risk, rehabilitative outcomes, and sport performance,” says Gray.

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“Our research team is working to bring motion analysis testing—which is expensive and time consuming—into orthopedics offices, physical therapy clinics, and athletic facilities using inexpensive and portable technology. Our research has shown that depth camera sensors from video games provide a valid option for motion assessment,” he explains.

Kinect set up (video game tech in health care)
Motion labs similar to the one pictured require space and can cost upward of $100,000. (Credit: Amy Pariss/U. Missouri)

Aaron Gray, a sports medicine physician with University of Missouri Health Care, was interested in how easily accessible technology could help athletes avoid knee injuries. He began working with a team of researchers to test the idea, including Guess and his colleagues.

The researchers report their findings in several recent studies, including one in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics and another in Sports Health.

Source: University of Missouri

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