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Latest Weapon In War Against Concussions: The Wii Fit?

Video game site Kotaku shared an interesting tidbit yesterday that some universities--namely Maryland and Ohio State--have begun using the Wii Fit as a way to track athletes' progress returning from concussions:

"The athletes love it because what we've done is we've incorporated this fun game that they're playing at home into their rehab system," said Tamerah Hunt, director of research at the Ohio State Sports Concussion Program. "But they're also enjoying it at a time when they're injured or at a time when their spirits are down, and they have to come into the athletic training room every day and they have to get all this treatment ... and it's kind of a reaction of, 'Oh, this is fun.' "

The premise is to have every athlete take a balance test when healthy, then use that data as a baseline for progress back from injury should they receive a concussion. Unfortunately, the program is far from perfect.

As the Washington Post points out, the data involved in Wii Fit testing--and in the the surrounding science--leaves room for improvement:

Judging the effectiveness of Wii Fit and other balance-testing mechanisms is a question of reliability. [Director of research at the Ohio State Sports Concussion Program Tamerah Hunt] said the studies done by Maryland and Ohio State have shown that Wii Fit's reliability -- when compared with other, more studied balance tests -- is "pretty decent," but acknowledged that, ideally, it would be much higher.

Collins, who was consulted during the treatment of Tim Tebow after the former Heisman-winning Florida quarterback suffered a midseason concussion last year, said part of the issue with Wii Fit and other balance tests stems from the rawness of their data. While neurocognitive testing -- which measures a person's capacity to react, pay attention and remember -- has been researched "extensively," Collins noted that "the balance stuff is just really an evolving area."

At the same time, though, this is a remarkable breakthrough given the fact that neither the console nor the software is even customized for the task at hand. Wii Fit wasn't designed with cognitive health data gathering in mind. So considering the value these athletes' well-beings hold, if Hunt has an ideal in mind for the type of information she wants to get from the system, it shouldn't be prohibitively difficult or expensive for someone to engineer a version of this Wii Fit program to suit the needs of the training rooms.