Entertaining Ways to Help Recovery From An Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

Published on 3 Feb 2023

Some games for brain injury patients offer fun ways to enhance cognitive skills and speed up recovery. Unlike normal cognitive exercises, brain games keep people more engaged, which means the skills developed by playing the game are more likely to stick and help them in other areas of their life.

None of these games were designed exclusively for traumatic brain injury (TBI) recovery, but they all activate important mental skills which are needed to live independently. This list includes something for every TBI patient, no matter what their cognitive level, so the list is organised by difficulty, from easiest to most complex.

Some of these games might be too hard for someone at the beginning of their rehabilitation, or for those further ahead in their rehabilitation they may be too easy! But hopefully there will be a few that work wherever you are on your rehabilitation journey.

  1. Go Fish (and Other Card Games)

Card games such as “Go Fish” are perfect for severe TBI patients who need to relearn skills like memory, pattern recognition, and attention. They require some strategy, but not so much that it will become frustrating. As you improve your skills, you can try harder card games like Solitaire or Hearts.

  1. UNO

UNO is another game for brain injury patients. The aim of the game is match a card in your hand with the card on the table until you’ve got rid of all your cards. But this has to happen before your opponent! It’s a great way to improve your colour and number recognition, and there’s even some strategy and planning skills involved.

  1. Scattergories

This game is great for improving organisation, recall and word-finding abilities! It’s especially good for people with language difficulties, such as aphasia. The goal of the game is to name as many items in a category as you can in two minutes. If you’re not ready for the pressure of the actual game, you can also just use the cards without worrying about running out of time.

  1. Scrabble

Scrabble is another game that can boost word-finding skills. This game requires a little more effort, because not only are you limited by the tiles in your hand, you also have to use the tiles on the board and build new words from them.

This exercises several cognitive skills at once, including:

  • memory to think of a word;
  • strategy to find the best word for the most points;
  • problem-solving to build a word from available letters; and
  • mental flexibility to adapt if the player before them does something unexpected
  1. Jenga

This classic party game is perfect for practicing fine motor skills. As the aim is to remove blocks without causing the whole tower to topple, it also gives you a chance to improve some other cognitive skills such as attention and planning. If the small blocks are too hard to move, Giant Jenga might be a little easier.

  1. Concentration

This game can be played with any standard deck of cards. In Concentration you must lay all the cards face down on the table. Players take turns flipping over cards to find matching pairs, until all the cards are paired. This game really challenges memory, since you have to remember where each card is to make a pair. It is helpful for people trying to improve their short term memory after a brain injury.

  1. Sudoku

Sudoku is tough, but it’s perfect for improving number and problem-solving skills. Each row, column, and square in a Sudoku grid has to be filled out with the numbers 1-9 without any repeats in any row, column, or square. It sounds complicated at first, but it will get easier the more it’s done. There are also different difficulties to choose, so it is recommended starting at the easiest level and working your way up.

  1. Chess

Chess is one of the oldest games in history, and there’s a reason it’s stayed popular for centuries. It’s challenging, but not all that complicated, and every game is different. It also engages nearly every cognitive skill, making it a brilliant game for brain injury patients. Chess challenges memory, since they must remember what each piece does. It forces players to think both logically and creatively to find the best move. Chess also teaches you how to think ahead and plan your strategy. Because you only play against one player, chess is an easier strategy game than others, and is ideal for ABI patients who might still struggle with focusing on more than one thing at a time.

  1. Risk

This is a classic strategy board game that forces you to put all your mental skills to the test. It’s by far the hardest game on this list and is recommended for those who are far along into their recovery.

The goal of the game is to take over the world, but how players do this is completely your choice. Every decision made carries a risk that could hurt them later on in the game. Players must think ahead and choose wisely.

Risk is a long game which might not be suitable for ABI patients with concentration problems. The game is also frustrating at times, so if you struggle with anger you might want to avoid it, however, Risk will help refine nearly all of your cognitive abilities.

If you get good at these, you may wish to enter the ABI Games!

Headway Worcestershire partnered with the University of Worcester Sports Arena to present the ABI Games for people with acquired brain injuries from anywhere in the UK, thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund.

The event was held in honour of the late Queen in her Platinum Jubilee year by naming it the ‘Queen Elizabeth II Games for People with Acquired Brain Injury’.

Adults with an acquired brain injury from across the UK made their mark with remote creative applications prior to the event, and over 80 other contestants tested their abilities by participating in 24 various activities over the weekend.

There were four core areas of activities:

  1. Physical Activities

Over the two days teams from around the country participated in physical games. The categories were: Boccia, Indoor Bowls, Walking Tennis, Walking Football, Walking Rugby and Walking Cricket.

  1. Creative Expression

Participants created their own piece of art in the run up to the event. These were then judged at the event itself. The categories were: Photography, Painting/Drawing, Pottery, Woodwork, Creative Writing and Craft.

  1. Cognitive Skills

Taking place over the two days, the categories were: Cards (Crib, Rummy), Uno, Memory Game, Dominoes, Chess, and a Quiz which included the following rounds - images, music and general knowledge.

  1. Life Skills

Participants were invited to create their entries prior to the event. These were then judged at the event itself. The categories were: Grow Tallest Sunflower, Grow Wonky Fruit/Veg, Bake a Cake, Bake Scones, Bake a Loaf of Bread and Make a Preserve.

There is another event this year, so get practising those card skills!!

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