Do virtual reality games improve mobility skills and balance measurements in community-dwelling older adults? Systematic review and meta-analysis

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Abstract

Objective:

To summarize evidence on the effectiveness of virtual reality games and conventional therapy or no-intervention for fall prevention in the elderly.

Data sources:

An electronic data search (last searched December 2016) was performed on 10 databases (Web of Science, EMBASE, PUBMED, CINAHL, LILACS, SPORTDiscus, Cochrane Library, Scopus, SciELO, PEDro) and retained only randomized controlled trials.

Review method:

Sample characteristics and intervention parameters were compared, focusing on clinical homogeneity of demographic characteristics, type/duration of interventions, outcomes (balance, reaction time, mobility, lower limb strength and fear of falling) and low risk of bias. Based on homogeneity, a meta-analysis was considered. Two independent reviewers assessed the risk of bias.

Results:

A total of 28 studies met the inclusion criteria and were appraised (n: 1121 elderly participants). We found that virtual reality games presented positive effects on balance and fear of falling compared with no-intervention. Virtual reality games were also superior to conventional interventions for balance improvements and fear of falling. The six studies included in the meta-analysis demonstrated that virtual reality games significantly improved mobility and balance after 3–6 and 8–12 weeks of intervention when compared with no-intervention. The risk of bias revealed that less than one-third of the studies correctly described the random sequence generation and allocation concealment procedures.

Conclusion:

Our review suggests positive clinical effects of virtual reality games for balance and mobility improvements compared with no-treatment and conventional interventions. However, owing to the high risk of bias and large variability of intervention protocols, the evidence remains inconclusive and further research is warranted.

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