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This joystick helps stroke patients regain muscle strength

Stroke patients who suffer from weakness of muscles in their arms have to perform regular rehabilitative exercises to regain strength in their limbs. In a bid to boost motivation and faster recovery, a team of scientists has found a way to gamify those exercises with the help of a gadget designed for playing video games.

Called GripAble, the rehabilitation tool comes from researchers at Imperial College London and resembles the design of conventional gaming joysticks. It works as follows: The patient grips the device with the hand of their affected arm, then uses it as the controller for video games played via an app on a wirelessly linked tablet.

GripAble requires users to squeeze and release its handgrip in order to control gameplay. In addition to that, they’re also asked to turn and lift the tool, adding to the range of arm-strengthening exercises. As reported by New Atlas, the device is capable of detecting even very slight muscle movements, and lets users know that it’s done so by vibrating.

Usually, such exercises are performed in clinical settings, under the supervision of trained therapists. GripAble, on the other hand, is designed to allow users to exercise at home and thus enables faster recovery. It also makes the process more fun, helping to provide motivation.

A 2019 clinical trial with 30 stroke patients with upper limb weakness found that unsupervised use of the GripAble allowed participants to perform an average of 104 arm-strengthening repetitions per day. Conversely, conventional therapy alone only allowed them to do an average of 15.

“The findings from this clinical trial provide evidence that GripAble can be adopted to help further support stroke patients with severe arm weakness with their rehabilitation unsupervised,” said study author Dr. Paul Bentley. “This could have big implications for the NHS [National Health Service], given that recovery from stroke is strongly influenced by exercise intensity.”

Image source: Imperial College London

Source study: Neurorehabilitation & Neural RepairSelf-Directed Exergaming for Stroke Upper Limb Impairment Increases Exercise Dose Compared to Standard Care

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