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Machine Learning, Virtual Reality, and Biomechanical Simulation to Aid Physical Rehabilitation


Physical rehabilitation is a continuum of healing for patients that extends beyond in-person clinical visits. Physical therapists expect their patients to continue performing stretches and exercises for weeks or months after the in-person treatment concludes. However, many patients fail to continue this practice due to the boring, repetitive nature of these exercises. In this dissertation, immersive virtual reality paired with biomechanical simulations was explored as a solution to this problem through the development of a rehabilitation game designed in collaboration with physical therapists. While participating in the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Program with this work, we learned of another major problem facing physical therapists. Therapists are having difficulty accurately evaluating their patients on telehealth platforms. We addressed this problem and this dissertation shows the development of biomechanical simulations and machine learning models based on our rehabilitation game to propose new methods for remote patient evaluation. The findings of this work contribute to future physical therapy tool development that can aid therapists and help patients overcome accessibility barriers related to distance, time, travel, and disease that can prevent a patient from attending a clinic.

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