The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year. Strokes are the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S., and those who do survive are often times left with crippling disabilities. In fact, strokes are the leading cause of nursing home admissions each year. And with recovery times varying greatly from weeks to even years, physical therapists struggle to provide the most adequate care to stroke victims.
But what if a technology used in movie making and video games could help stroke victims recover, so that they may return to at least some sense of normalcy?
Whether you’re aware of it or not, 3D technology is fully integrated in our lives. Animated movie characters (like Gollum from Lord of the Rings) and nearly every video game on shelves today use 3D technology to merge real life with the virtual world.
Take, for example, the character of Caeser in 2011’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, played by motion-capture veteran Andy Serkis (he also played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films). In order to create the lifelike movements of Caeser, visual effects master Joe Letteri recorded Serkis’ every motion (made with his face and body) using a series of retrofitted markers. These movements were then sent to a computer, and recreated in the virtual world. These markers are how characters like the Incredible Hulk are brought to life in video games, and they’re how doctors are now helping stroke victims.
From Jacksonville, FL to Minnesota to the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, researches and doctors have begun to introduce 3D technology into the rehabilitative process of stroke victims.
3D animation allows doctors to measure joint angle, speed and smoothness of a person’s everyday movements. It can also provide details on any compensating motion patterns a stroke patient is using. This provides doctors with a strikingly precise measurement of the motion of a stroke person, versus that of a healthy person.
By animating the movements of stroke victims, doctors can then guide treatment as well as measure a patient’s progress and therapeutic needs. While 3D technology isn’t the magic pill that will give back full mobility to stroke victims, it can help doctors create the most advantageous rehabilitative regiments to speed up and optimize the recovery process.
Of course, 3D is no stranger to the medical world. There are reports of 3D printing being used by doctors for anything from helping design prosthetics to aiding with invasive surgeries.
The use of 3D animation is yet another example of how the medical profession has embraced technology in an effort to provide the best possible care to patients.
Stroke victims aren’t the only ones who experience limited mobility. This type of technology could potentially be expanded for patients with traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis. By being able to closely study every tiny tick and movement of patients, doctors will gain far more data than they once dreamed possible, giving hope to patients who suffer from a