Wii games now part of USAG Stuttgart Physical Therapy Clinic

Injured military members and their families may expect a prescription for pain medication when they visit the doctor, but what about playing video games?

At the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Physical Therapy Clinic, it could be just what the doctor ordered.

The clinic recently received two Wii gaming systems, complete with balance pads, Wii Fit games and flat-screen televisions from the garrison’s American Red Cross station.

The $3,000 gift was made possible through the Military Hospital Outreach Program, which provides grant funds for treating injured service members and their families through the ARC.

“Research is coming out showing the benefits to using a Wii,” said Dr. John Tortorelli, chief of the USAG Stuttgart PT clinic. “It helps with balance and agility and allows patients to do it in a fun way.”

Tortorelli said he has prescribed the Wii Fit to two or three patients so far. And, he added, it’s more than just fun and games.

“It can be challenging, especially for someone who’s injured,” he said, adding that he tested a few of the games. “I was exerting myself.”

The idea to add Wii systems to the clinic’s therapy options came to Tortorelli when he saw them being used at the Occupational Therapy Clinic in the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. When the Red Cross notified him of the grant funds, he applied for them.

“We thought it would enhance our clinic to provide the latest in updated, evidence-based physical therapy to achieve [greater] affects,” he said. “I believe we’re the only physical therapy clinic in Europe that has them.”

The clinic held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Wii systems to thank the Red Cross Oct. 23.

In addition to the Wiis, USAG Stuttgart ARC grant funds will provide 10 annual swimming passes this year for physical therapy patients to use the hydro-therapy pool at the Badezentrum Sindelfingen, near Panzer Kaserne.

“It’s giving something back to the community that they’ll be able to make good use of, hopefully for a long time” said Karen Jorgenson, acting station manager for the garrison’s ARC.

The Wii systems represent the first time that the USAG Stuttgart PT Clinic has been awarded ARC grant funds, Jorgenson added. She hopes this is the beginning of an ongoing  funding partnership.

“I told them to continue looking at things [they need],” Jorgenson said. “Should something come up, we can put in the request for the grant funding.”