For stroke victims, therapy can be physically and mentally exhausting as they repeat the same workouts day in and day out just to regain their ability to complete the simplest of tasks, such as picking up a pencil.
But Clemson’s Recovr Inc. is turning physical therapy into a game, not a chore.
The game aims to improve the arm mobility of stroke patients, who sit or stand in front of a television or computer and hit rubber ducks as they go by on the screen. When patients reach out, a virtual arm on the screen knocks down the ducks, earning them points.
“We’re on the cusp of something big,” says Hayes, the company’s CEO. “There is a $17-billion stroke rehabilitation market in the U.S. alone. The need for this kind of therapy is expected to more than double by 2030, according to the National Stroke Association.”
About 800,000 strokes happen each year in the United States, with more than 7 million survivors suffering a long-term stroke disability. In many cases, stroke patients become discouraged when they can’t perform the tasks they once completed easily and discontinue their treatment after leaving therapy.
Patients usually do only 10 percent of the recommended daily therapy exercises, Hayes says. “Duck, Duck, Punch,” which can be played in hospitals and homes, has increased their exercise repetitions during pilot studies.
“It has just blown away therapists that patients are following up on their own between therapy sessions,” Hayes says. Some studies have revealed at least a 15 percent improvement in arm mobility in one week of using the game.
When Greenville resident Nancy Bunch suffered a stroke, she spent weeks in recovery, unable to move her arm. Then her therapist had her play the game, and one year later, she was able to drive herself to the grocery store.
“This really needs to be in hospitals all around the country,” Bunch says. “For me, it represented hope, hope for the hopeless. I am so thankful.”
The company recently received approval from the FDA to market the game as a medical device, now called the Recovr Rehabilitation System. It allows therapists to use the game to record patient progress and provide analytic data.
Recovr has received thousands of dollars in startup capital from Greenville’s Concepts to Companies, a firm that focuses on transforming academic ideas into commercial enterprise by investing capital and offering business expertise.
“It shows that South Carolina has high-quality intellectual capital. There is a huge need for this kind of product, and it’s growing. We’re expecting big things from Recovr,” says John Warner, Concepts to Companies founder and Recovr Inc. director.
The game is currently used by the Medical University of South Carolina and various other facilities throughout the country.
Hayes says Recovr plans to expand by creating new games that could help patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and more.