Upper limb impairment in the chronic phase of stroke recovery is persistent, disabling, and difficult to treat. The objectives of this study were to determine whether therapeutic enjoyment is related to clinical improvement after upper limb rehabilitation and to assess the feasibility of a therapy gaming system.
Ten chronic stroke survivors with persistent upper limb impairment were enrolled in the study. Upper limb impairment was evaluated by using the Fugl-Meyer Assessment of Upper Extremity Function (FMA-UE). The Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale (PACES) assessed the level of therapy enjoyment, and the System Usability Scale (SUS) measured the ease of operation of the game. Upper limb therapy involved 30 minutes of novel digital gaming therapy, three times per week, for 6 weeks.
The average improvement in the FMA-UE after the digital gaming therapy was 2.8 (±2.1) points. Participants scored the digital gaming system as having good usability (SUS: 72 ± 7.9), and the physical activity as enjoyable (PACES: 65.8 ± 10.6). There was a strong positive correlation between improvement in the FMA-UE score and the PACES (Spearman's Rho = 0.84; P < 0.002).
This pilot study demonstrates the feasibility and potential for improvements in upper limb motor function by using digital gaming in the chronic stroke patient population. The positive correlation found between therapy enjoyment and clinical gains highlights the importance of engagement in therapy to optimize outcomes in chronic stroke survivors.