A short video game may help children identify the signs of a stroke, and call 911 if they witness someone having one, a new study suggests.
The study involved about 200 children ages 9 to 12 living a community with many people at high risk for stroke(the Bronx, N.Y.). The children were tested on their knowledge of stroke symptoms before and immediately after they played a 15-minute stroke education video game. The children were also encouraged to play the game at home, and tested again seven weeks later.
Children were 33 percent more likely to recognize stroke symptoms, and say they would call 911 in a hypothetical scenario immediately after they played the video game, compared with before. [5 Diets That Fight Diseases]
And the children who continued to play the video game at home were 18 percent more likely to recognize balance problems as a symptom of stroke compared with children who played the game just once.
"We need to educate the public, including children, about stroke, because often it's the witness that makes that 911 call, not the stroke victim," study researcher Dr. Olajide Williams, an associate professor of neurology at Columbia University, said in a statement. "Sometimes, these witnesses are young children."
During the video game, called Stroke Hero, users navigate a spaceship through an artery and shoot down blood clots while avoiding plaques that line the artery wall. When they run out of ammo (in this case, clot-busting drugs), they need to answer stroke awareness questions before they can refuel. If users answer incorrectly, they are told the correct answer.
Video games are accessible for most children, and the average 8- to 12-year-old spends about 13 hours a week playing video games, Williams said. "Supplementing the content of these media with stroke education may represent a powerful way to improve stroke knowledge," the researchers said.
However, the study results should be interpreted with caution, Williams said. The study was small, and the researchers did not include a control group (a group that did not play the game or learned about stroke symptoms through another method).
The study is published today (Jan. 30) in the journal Stroke.
Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.