BACKGROUND: physical therapy interventions that increase functional strength and balance have been shown to reduce falls in older adults.
AIM: this study compared a virtual reality group (VRG) and a control group (CG).
DESIGN: randomised controlled 6-week intervention with pre- and post-test evaluations.
SETTING: outpatient geriatric orthopaedic and balance physical therapy clinic.
POPULATION: forty participants were randomised into two groups.
METHOD: the VRG received three different Nintendo® Wii FIT balance interventions three times per week for 6 weeks and the CG received no intervention.
RESULTS: compared with the CG, post-intervention measurements showed significant improvements for the VRG in the 8-foot Up & Go test [median decrease of 1.0 versus -0.2 s, (P=0.038) and the Activities-specific Balance Confidence Scale (6.9 versus 1.3%) (P=0.038)].
CONCLUSION: virtual reality gaming provides clinicians with a useful tool for improving dynamic balance and balance confidence in older adults.
Initial, hypothesis generating study, at best. There are a number of limitations, some of which the authors themselves highlight, including inadequate description of randomisation process, lack of generalisability, no control group intervention (i.e. standard physiotherapy sessions). Importantly, the authors provide no data to support their assertion that the intervention 'reduces fall risk'; this statement should not have passed peer-review.
This study tells us that some intervention is probably better than nothing. If the usefulness of WII is to be ascertained, it needs to be compared with a gold standard for mobility and balance, not a do nothing control group.
Because of the highly selected group and differences in the two interventions, in addition to virtual reality, the results are difficult to interpret.