Virtual Reality Trains and Assesses for Better Outcomes

LEIPZIG – Practitioners at the ISPO World Congress, here, explained
how they use virtual reality rehabilitation to better engage patients and see
better outcomes.

Benjamin Darter, PhD, PT; Jason Wilken, PhD, PT; and John Fergason, CPO,
described their experiences with the new technology used at Brooke Army Medical

Darter pointed out that virtual reality is not a replacement, but an
augmentation of conventional therapy. “From a therapeutic standpoint, you
can do things that you can’t otherwise, in a safe manner,” he said
explaining that one of the positive features of virtual reality rehabilitation
is the capability of environmental control. “In addition, from a research
perspective you can consistently reproduce a scenario. The first time you do it
and the 100th time you do it should all be the same. That’s a little more
difficult to do in a traditional clinic.”

  Jason Wilken
  Jason Wilken

Other attributes to this type of therapy include real-time targeted

“There are many things clinically that you may observe,”
Darter said. “If you are doing gait training, and you are looking at
someone [who] uses their pelvis, that’s something that is very difficult
to see in the first place but it also difficult to communicate that to the
patient. Using motion capture capabilities, you can quantify the motion.”

Additionally, this type of rehabilitation allows for increased patient
engagement regardless of the specific training need.

Currently Brooke Army Medical Center uses a high-end virtual reality
system to concentrate on static balance, dynamic balance, gait, cognitive
function and to ultimately return the service member to active duty. They
encourage practitioners to find a low-cost system that works for them –
through mirrors, video projection or third party systems – to begin
incorporating this kind of therapy into practice.


I think [virtual reality training] has terrific applications because we,
as clinicians, go through trial and error but it takes a lot of trials and a
lot of error for us to be able to realize what’s effective and what’s
not. The use of virtual reality gives a lot more evidence so that we can
decrease the amount of time it takes when we’re working with patients. I
think the value of virtual reality is that it gives us a lot of evidence
quickly and it begins to tell us how we can better fine tune our treatment

— Robert S. Gailey Jr., PhD, PT
professor, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Miami Leonard M.
Miller School of Medicine

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