Text Size Default Text SizeDefault Text Size Large Text SizeLarge Text Size Largest Text SizeLargest Text Size Print Print this Page

2008 News Releases

Longwood research uses Wii bowling to study arthritis in older adults

April 6, 2008

Mary doing the Wii bowling

A group of older adults recently met once a week in a Longwood University classroom to play a simulated bowling video game. Although they ate and socialized while bowling, their get-together was not purely social.

They were participating in a Longwood research study whose organizers want to know if Nintendo’s Wii video game system, increasingly popular in rehabilitation therapy, can help older adults with arthritis. The study by three faculty members in the Department of Health, Recreation and Kinesiology (HRK) is measuring the game’s effects on the lower extremity endurance and shoulder range of motion of the nine people, all of whom have been diagnosed with arthritis.

“We’re trying to determine if there is a difference between the experimental group, which is those nine people, and the control group, which consists of eight people, also older adults with arthritis, who are not doing the bowling but are still being measured,” said Dr. Susan Lynch, one of the project’s leaders, who teaches in the Therapeutic Recreation program. “Our hypothesis is that the range of motion of their dominant shoulder – the one they bowl with – will improve as well as that their lower extremity endurance will increase. There have been lots of news articles recently about Wii bowling, but I don’t think there’s been a study as to its effectiveness in rehabilitation. We’re trying to prove that Wii works.”

The participants bowled every Friday from noon to 2 p.m. from mid-January until April 4. Like players in other Wii sports, the bowlers used a remote with a wrist strap, with the simulated results displayed on a large television screen in front of them.

“They have to follow a certain bowling protocol, which is the proper bowling technique,” Lynch said. “There’s also a social aspect, just like in regular bowling. We sit around and eat lunch and have snacks.”

All of the members of both the experimental group and the control group are in Lynch’s arthritis aquatics class. The experimental group included the former dean of Longwood’s College of Education and Human Services, Dr. Bill Schall, and his wife, Carol.

“About a year ago, I saw a TV news segment about a recreational bowling league for older adults in Ohio who were using the Wii system,” said Lynch. “That piqued my interest, and eventually the HRK department purchased a Wii system, for research. Then I discussed doing a study with one of my colleagues, Matt Lucas.”

Wii sports games, which are less repetitive and less painful than traditional therapy, are “fast becoming a craze in rehab therapy for patients recovering from strokes, broken bones, surgery and even combat injuries,” according to a recent article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Wii games require body movements similar to traditional therapy exercises…Patients become so engrossed mentally that they’re almost oblivious to the rigor. Some call it Wiihabilitation.”

The other faculty leading the study are Dr. Matt Lucas, who is in the HRK teacher education program and whose specialty is adapted physical education, and Dr. Cathy Roy, who specializes in exercise science. Others in the HRK department who have helped include another faculty member, Dr. Sharon Gaunt; staff member Nancy Scruggs; and students. Lynch will submit the results of the study to a refereed professional journal.