It is inevitable over the life of an athlete that injuries will be incurred. From injuries imbalances can develop, as we favor a weak leg while building our strength back up. These imbalances are known in the medical world as weight-bearing asymmetry (WBA).
When an athlete has WBA there is an increased likelihood of reinjury and a decrease in overall performance potential. These effects of imbalance are magnified by the fact the majority of athletes are unable to detect the lack of symmetry on their own.
Some of you may have experienced some high-tech ways of detecting and rehabbing muscular imbalances – but what about the Nintendo WiiFit? One of the components of the WiiFit is the Wii Balance Board, which is similar to force platforms used by research laboratories and includes the visual feedback of the computer screen.
In a recent study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research scientists examined using the Wii Balance Board as a method of improving weight-bearing asymmetry in both trained (athletes) and untrained individuals.
In the study, participants were tested on two different occasions with the Wii Balance Board – one time with visual feedback and one time without. They performed six squats, taking six seconds to perform each repetition. Participants stood on two Wii Balance Boards, one under each foot. In the sessions with visual feedback, custom software was used to display the weight distributions in real time on the computer screen in front of the participant so they could adjust their movement accordingly.
While reductions in WBA were observed in both the trained and untrained participants, the improvements in the athlete group were statistically insignificant. The degree of WBA had been lower to begin with in that group, so there was also less space for improvement. In the non-athlete group, however, significant improvements in WBA were measured.
For doctors these results means untrained patients with WBA could make major improvements in their condition through the use of visual feedback while performing rehab exercises. The Wii Balance Boards offer an inexpensive and portable way for doctors to apply this practice, whereas previously this technology was only available in research laboratories.