Play-based interventions improve physical function for people with adult-acquired brain injury: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

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To undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effectiveness of play-based interventions compared to traditional therapy in rehabilitation of adults with adult-acquired brain injury.

Data sources:

The search was performed using Medline; Cinahl Plus; Health Source (Nursing/Academic Edition); Psychology and behavioural sciences collection; Biomedical reference collection (basic).

Review methods:

Studies included were randomised controlled trials that investigated the effect of play-based interventions on physical function of adults with adult acquired brain injury. Two independent reviewers identified eligible studies and assessed methodological quality using a modified Downs and Black. Meta-analysis compared standardised differences in means, to determine effect sizes for grouped functional outcome measures. The GRADE scoring system was used to determine the level of clinical evidence.


Thirty studies met the inclusion criteria, 13 were considered high quality and 17 moderate quality. Studies predominantly involved post-stroke participants, with only three studies including participants with traumatic brain injury. When compared to traditional therapy, dose-matched studies of play-based interventions showed a significant effect on independence (Effect size (ES) = 0.6) and physical performance (ES = 0.43), as measured using the Fugl –Meyer. For non-dose matched studies, play-based interventions showed a significant improvement for balance (ES = 0.76) compared with traditional therapy. In all studies that measured participant enjoyment, play-based therapy was rated as more enjoyable than traditional therapy.


Play-based interventions for people with adult acquired brain injury are more effective in improving balance and independence, which may be due to them being more enjoyable than traditional therapy.

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