Looking to get a balance platform for your clinic? You might find yourself paying about $18,000 for the medical device. A study was recently published in the medical journal Gait & Posture showing that the $99 Wii Balance Board is “clinically comparable” to the medical devices.
When doctors disassembled the board, they found the accelerometers and strain gauges to be of “excellent” quality. “I was shocked given the price: it was an extremely impressive strain gauge set-up,” said lead researcher Ross Clark, in an interview with New Scientist.
Impaired standing balance has a detrimental effect on a person’s functional ability and increases their risk of falling. There is currently no validated system which can precisely quantify center of pressure (COP), an important component of standing balance, while being inexpensive, portable and widely available. The Wii Balance Board (WBB) fits these criteria, and we examined its validity in comparison with the ‘gold standard’—a laboratory-grade force platform (FP).
Thirty subjects without lower limb pathology performed a combination of single and double leg standing balance tests with eyes open or closed on two separate occasions. Data from the WBB were acquired using a laptop computer.
The test–retest reliability for COP path length for each of the testing devices, including a comparison of the WBB and FP data, was examined using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC), Bland–Altman plots (BAP) and minimum detectable change (MDC). Both devices exhibited good to excellent COP path length test–retest reliability within-device (ICC = 0.66–0.94) and between-device (ICC = 0.77–0.89) on all testing protocols.
Examination of the BAP revealed no relationship between the difference and the mean in any test, however the MDC values for the WBB did exceed those of the FP in three of the four tests. These findings suggest that the WBB is a valid tool for assessing standing balance. Given that the WBB is portable, widely available and a fraction of the cost of a FP, it could provide the average clinician with a standing balance assessment tool suitable for the clinical setting.