Scoring a goal for kids with hockey therapy

Health | April 8, 2015

For youth needing rehabilitation, the Glenrose Hospital Foundation is using hockey and technology to improve mobility.

Our Edmonton Community Board had the chance to visit the Glenrose Hospital Foundation and immediately discovered how many lives could be served by supporting this organization. That one visit would eventually see us commit to helping create a new digital solution aimed at improving rehabilitation therapy for pediatric patients using an interactive hockey game.

Glenrose’s rehabilitation hockey game directly aligns with our focus on youth, health and the use of technology. The hospital has partnered with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and TELUS, to develop this custom virtual reality hockey game designed to aid rehabilitation therapies for young patients on their journey to recovery. Alberta faces Canada’s highest rates of pre-term births, at 8.8 per cent, meaning that children in the province face higher rates of learning disabilities, cerebral palsy and respiratory illness. Glenrose currently sees about 26,000 visits from children and their families every year, so it was easy to see why we jumped at the chance to get involved in making a difference.

“We have a whole unit dedicated to kids and it used to be super low tech – it’s in one of the oldest parts of our hospital. The Edmonton Oilers helped us create our ‘OIL Centre’, which features touch screens, Lego robots and digital technologies,” said Trina Johnson, Director, Community Relations and Fund Development at Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. “The hockey game is an extension of the OIL Centre. The kids will play hockey using a stick and a puck, and interact with the screen and motion capture cameras to play the game. By playing the game they’re actually engaging in therapy.”

“Succeeding is important to us. It’s essentially making sure that as a leader in North America we remain at the forefront of these important technologies.”

Trina Johnson

According to the occupational therapists on staff, the longer they can get the children to engage and actively pursue their therapy goals, the greater the improvement and outcome. This game is designed to encourage that idea of more work, without the patients even realizing it. As a result, the game as a medium is a technologically-driven solution to the age-old dilemma of keeping patients motivated during therapy. Hockey and gaming was the logical and natural choice to help increase that success, right in the backyard of the Edmonton Oilers.

Gaming for health is really the future of rehabilitation, so we need to be in this game and TELUS is making that possible,” said Trina Johnson.

Making sure the kids felt the graphics were realistic and the game was just as good as those they played at home was key. Partnering with the Edmonton Community Board ensured the Glenrose program could compete with the types of games found in stores or at arcades. In the future, Glenrose hopes kids will be able to take the game home with them to continue the work started at the hospital.