How Virtual Reality is Revolutionising Recovery for Injured Soldiers

Can you imagine being put into a life-size video game to help you recover from an injury?

That is exactly what is happening to patients at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Stanford Hall.

A new £1.8 million piece of kit called the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (Caren) analyses how patients use their muscles and teaches them the skills needed to heal more quickly after brain, spinal or limb injury.

One of only six in the world, it exposes the patient to simulated real-life scenarios and gives immediate feedback on their movement to medical staff , which allows tailored rehabilitation programmes to be developed.

“CAREN was developed in the 1990’s and with a limited use in the first years.” (Van Der Meer, 2013).

How Does It Work?

  • A panoramic screen simulates different terrains – for example, a street pavement or boat deck – with all the twists and turns that demands.
  • The patient is harnessed for safety and has sensor pads applied to the relevant areas of their body to register limb movement, muscle activation and 360 degree motion.
  • The motion base turns and moves in conjunction with a treadmill that is equipped with plates and sensors that record step pressure, balance and fluidity of movement.
  • Doctors and therapists can more effectively assess what the patient’s limitations are and how he or she may be compensating for their injury through the data feedback. An on-screen avatar can also graphically demonstrate which muscles fi re and when, as well as step pressure and weight distribution.

Useful Links

  • Motek Medical:
  • Isaacson, B.M., Swanson, T.M. & Pasquina, P.F. (2013) The Use of a Computer-assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN) for Enhancing Wounded Warrior Rehabilitation Regimens. The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine. 36(4), pp.296-299. doi: 10.1179/2045772313Y.0000000119.


Van Der Meer, R. (2013) Developments in Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environments. 40th ICMM World Congress on Military Medicine, 7-12 Dec 2013, Jeddah, Saudi-Arabia. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 11 November, 2019].


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