The consequence of falling can be physically and psychologically debilitating even resulting in death. The cost of falls is approximately £5 million per annum in North Essex. For the UK, falls are reported to cost the NHS £1.7 billion. Researchers at Essex are undertaking an evaluation of the use of the Nintendo Wii-Fit™ as a potential adjunct to standard NHS falls training. This is a novel approach for balance rehabilitation for those elderly patients who are repeat fallers.
Anecdotally the Wii-Fit™ is being used in a number of settings within the NHS and veteran associations in the US but there is a paucity of evaluative research for the Wii-Fit™ as rehabilitation tool such as we are proposing. The Wii-Fit™ is already being used, in a limited fashion by the Colchester General Hospital's falls prevention exercise group and feedback from both patients and physiotherapy staff has been positive. The results from this study suggested that improvements were greater when using the Wii compared to traditional training. However, the Wii was only used for a small period of time within training.
We therefore plan to carry out a small random control trial comprising 60 patients, using pre and post-intervention measures (biomechanical, psychological and functional) to evaluate the utility of the Wii-Fit as a rehabilitation tool. Preliminary analysis of case studies suggest that the Wii combined with traditional training is more effective in improving functional and psychological outcomes compare to traditional only and traditional combined with extra one-on-one physiotherapy.