Background. Video games have become popular in stroke rehabilitation; however, the nature of this intervention is not fully understood.
Objectives. To compare the number of (a) purposeful and nonpurposeful repetitions of the weaker upper extremity (UE) and (b) movement accelerations as assessed by accelerometer activity counts of the weaker and stronger UEs of individuals with chronic stroke while playing video games or participating in traditional therapy.
Methods. Twenty-nine individuals (mean age 59 years, 1-7 years poststroke) took part in a group intervention of video -games (n = 15) or traditional therapy (n = 14) as part of a randomized controlled trial. During 1 – 2 sessions, participants were video-taped while wearing wrist accelerometers. Assessors counted the number of repetitions and classified movements as purposeful or nonpurposeful using videotapes. The weaker UE motor impairments were correlated to movement accelerations, to determine if participants were using their potential during the sessions.
Results. Participants in the video game group performed a median of 271 purposeful movements and 37 970 activity counts compared to 48 purposeful movements and 14 872 activity counts in the traditional group (z = −3.0, P = .001 and z= −1.9, P = .05, respectively). Participants in the traditional group performed a median of 26 nonpurposeful (exercises) compared with 0 in the video game group (z = −4.2, P= .000). Strong significant correlations were found between the motor ability of the weak UE to repetitions of participants in both groups (r = .86, P < .01). Participants with higher motor ability performed more repetitions.
Conclusions. Video games elicited more UE purposeful repetitions and higher acceleration of movement compared with traditional therapy in individuals with chronic stroke.