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3-D Game May Help Soldiers Burned in Combat Deal With Pain During Physical Therapy

Snow World, a virtual-reality game that has been helping victims of fires cope with painful physical therapy for nearly a decade, is now part of a military study to examine whether or not virtual reality could provide relief for soldiers burned in combat.

The United States Army Institute of Surgical Research is seeking participants to join a study that is being conducted at Fort Sam Houston, according to ScienCentral.

The project is a collaboration between Christopher Maani, chief of anesthesia at the surgical-research institute, and Hunter Hoffman, one of the creators of Snow World and the director of the University of Washington’s Virtual Reality Analgesia Research Center. Mr. Hoffman developed the icy 3-D world with David Patterson, chief of rehabilitation medicine at the university’s Harborview Burn Center.

While inside Snow World, patients can fly about tossing snowballs at penguins and snowmen, helping to distract them from painful wound care and physical therapy, the creators say. “Snow is the opposite of fire,” Mr. Hoffman told ScienCentral, and it distracts them “from remembering their original injury.”

Last summer Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Maani were on a team that published a paper focusing on the effects that virtual reality had on two combat-burn victims undergoing rehabilitation. The soldiers found the game fun and reported reduced pain, the researchers told ScienCentral.

The new study is projected to be completed in October 2009.

Below is a video from ScienCentral on how Snow World has helped Sam Brown, a soldier who suffered burns during combat in Afghanistan on September 4. —David DeBolt

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