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Nintendo Wii Has More Uses Than Just as Game

Nintendo's popular Wii game system has sold more than 20 million units around the world. Its popularity comes from a unique wand-like device that players use to control a video game. Some players have suffered injuries while using the device, but others have benefited. Elderly people use the Wii to stay active and some doctors use it to train for surgery. VOA's Tony Budny has the story.

The concept of the Wii is simple: move the controller to play the games. Want to play tennis? Serve just like a pro. Feel like bowling? Twist the controller and roll a strike.

Its unique motion excites people besides video game fans. It can help seniors stay active, maintain range of motion and play sports given up years ago. Doris Meyer is 70. She says she moves more. "It's good because you get up out of your chair and you move around," she said.

Dr. Roland Lascari is medical director at a retirement community. He says he sees the benefits for seniors. "Now they can participate in these sports that they always participated in, but with a little less stress to their bodies."

The Wii can also help those rehabilitating from injuries. Patients can make real-life movements in a safe environment and regain some motion. Occupational therapist Jennifer Smith says even patients with serious injuries can benefit. "I've seen spinal cord patients really regain the ability to move, gain movement from everything. That helps them wash their face, brush their teeth, to get in and out of the chair or to start a car."

A doctor in Arizona has begun using the Wii to help train surgeons. Dr. Kanov Kahol attaches a probe to the end of the controller and has his surgeons use it to practice the delicate movements of real surgery. Dr. Kahol explains, "We're looking for precise fine motor control movement."

But for those who use the device for fun, be careful. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Shawn Mansour warns the Wii has its drawbacks. "They're swinging their controllers, hitting ceiling fans, hitting other people, you know, cutting their hands up, all sorts of potentially devastating type injuries," he said.

Still, if played properly, it can be a lot of fun.