Kids learn about stroke through a clot-busting spaceship

kids strokeSpending just 15 minutes at the controls of a clot-busting spaceship can teach kids lasting lessons about stroke symptoms, according to a study in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.

The spaceship exists in a video game called Stroke Hero. Playing the game could result in a child saving someone who’s having a stroke in the real world, according to the researchers who designed and tested the game.

“Video games are fun, widely available and accessible for most children,” said Olajide Williams, MD, lead author of the study. “Empowering every potential witness with the knowledge and skills required to make that lifesaving decision if they witness a stroke is critical.”

About the study

The study involved 210 students ages 9 and 10 who live in a low-income community in New York where there’s a high risk for stroke. About 1 in 4 of the students reported a personal experience with someone having a stroke.

Researchers first tested the children on how much they knew about stroke; for example, whether they could identify stroke symptoms and if they knew they should call 911 if they saw someone having a stroke. Then the children were introduced to Stroke Hero.

In the game, the player pilots a spaceship through arteries and blasts through clots that are blocking blood flow to the brain. When a player runs out of clot-busting ammunition, he or she can get more by correctly answering questions about stroke.

When the students answered questions incorrectly, they were told what the right answer was. The game’s hip-hop soundtrack also included lyrics containing the right answers. The children played the game for 15 minutes before having their stroke knowledge tested again. They were then encouraged to play the game online at home. A final test of stroke knowledge was done seven weeks after the initial one.

The results: Given a hypothetical scenario, students were much more likely to recognize stroke symptoms and call 911 after playing Stroke Hero than they were before they played the game.

Limitations of the study include its small size and the lack of a control group for comparison. Still, the findings demonstrate that a video game can improve stroke knowledge among young children, the researchers wrote.

The take-home message
“We need to educate the public, including children, about stroke, because often it’s the witness that makes the 911 call, not the stroke victim,” said Dr. Williams. “Sometimes, these witnesses are young children.”Children can register to play Stroke Hero for free at www.hiphoppublichealth.org.

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