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Use of a Virtual Reality Physical Ride-On Sailing Simulator as a Rehabilitation Tool for Recreational Sports and Community Reintegration: A Pilot Study

Recio, Albert C. MD, RPT, PTRP; Becker, Daniel MD; Morgan, Marjorie PTA; Saunders, Norman R. PhD, MBBS; Schramm, Lawrence P. PhD; McDonald, John W. III MD, PhD

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: December 2013 - Volume 92 - Issue 12 - p 1104–1109
doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000012
Brief Report

ABSTRACT Participation in sailing by people with disabilities, particularly in small sailboats, is widely regarded as having positive outcomes on self-esteem and general health for the participants. However, a major hurdle for people with no previous experience of sailing, even by those without disabilities, is the perception that sailing is elitist, expensive, and dangerous. Real-time “ride-on” sailing simulators have the potential to bridge the gap between dry-land and on-the-water sailing. These provide a realistic, safe, and easily supervised medium in which nonsailors can easily and systematically learn the required skills before venturing out on the water. The authors report a 12-wk pilot therapeutic sailing program using the VSail-Access sailing simulation system followed by on-water experience. After completion of the training, all subjects demonstrated the ability to navigate a simple course around marker buoys (triangular configuration) on the computer screen, the ability to sail independently in winds of moderate strength (up to 14 knots) on water, and measurable improvements in their psychologic health. In addition, the subjects were able to participate in a sports activity with their respective family members and experienced a sense of optimism about their future.

From The International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, Hugo W. Moser Research Institute at Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, Maryland (ACR, DB, MM, JWM); Department of Biomedical Engineering (LPS), Department of Neurology (DB, JWM), and Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ACR, JWM), Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; and Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Melbourne, Australia (NRS).

All correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to: Albert C. Recio, MD, RPT, PTRP, 801 N. Broadway, Suite 560, Baltimore, MD 21205.

Dr Saunders is a director of the company Virtual Sailing Pty Ltd, which supplied the VSail-Access simulator used in this pilot trial. He did not derive any pecuniary advantage from this association. Drs Becker, McDonald, Recio, and Schramm and Marjorie Morgan declare no potential conflict of interest.

Financial disclosure statements have been obtained, and no conflicts of interest have been reported by the authors or by any individuals in control of the content of this article.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins