The Bayonet

Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014

Program offers recovery for injured Soldiers

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Four years after its initial launch on Fort Benning, Auburn University’s Warrior Athletic Training program continues to provide education and care for injured Soldiers during the most crucial times of their training.

The program brings graduate students from the university’s School of Kinesiology to aid in the diagnosis, rehabilitation and prevention of injuries in military personnel.

Originally starting as a partnership with five battalions from the 192nd Infantry Brigade on Sand Hill, it has since expanded to 16 training sites across the post, including the 198th Infantry Brigade, 194th Armored Brigade, 199th Infantry Brigade, 316th Cavalry Brigade, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, Noncommissioned Officer Acadamy, Combatives School and Infantry and Armor Basic Officer Leaders Courses.

Dr. JoEllen Sefton, director of the Warrior Research Center and Auburn’s Neuromechanics Research Laboratory, said the program reduces time spent at troop medical clinics and the load on the TMC providers and allows injured Soldiers to continue a modified training schedule.

“Our goal is to treat injuries directly in the units, offer prevention and save the Army money and time,” Sefton said. “Whenever a Soldier is not training, that’s time he can’t make up again. He could miss out on some very important things and could be pulled out of training if the injuries are bad enough.”

The athletic trainers, arrive at 5 a.m., six days a week, to offer guidance during physical training and identify and diagnose preventable and manageable musculoskeletal injuries. Each unit has sports medicine stations within facilities and gyms to evaluate and treat Soldiers on the spot.

Sefton said the program is a great opportunity to use experts from sports fields in a military environment, where stress fractures have become more common among initial-entry trainees during the past decade.

“Musculoskeletal injuries was listed as the number two issue within the Army and at any given time, there is an entire brigade of Soldiers that can’t deploy,” Sefton said. “We’re musculoskeletal specialists, so we work hand-in-hand with medical providers to take on those injuries, while allowing them to do what they do best.”

Sefton said the program helps Soldiers who are reluctant to report an injury and miss out on training.

“We look for form, we look for people who are getting hurt and we look for people who are trying to hide injuries,” Sefton said.

“If they report an injury within four days to us, we can often get them back within 1.5 to 2.5 days.”

Athletic trainers work with cadre and Army physical therapists to improve Soldier physical and educational training programs and access to research capabilities in order to reduce the numbers of injuries during military training.

They also provide injury screenings for new recruits and shoe fitting for Soldiers.

Lt. Col. Christopher Bresko, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 194th Armored Brigade, said the program is beneficial to cadre who are also at risk of overuse injuries from spending than 15 hours a day on their feet.

“Most of them have more than 10 years in the Army and a number of combat tours, so they get hurt as well,” Bresko said. “We have one drill sergeant for every 10 to 30 Soldiers, so we can’t afford to have them out. The ability to have the ATCs in house is a great benefit to us.”

Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dennison said the program’s warrior athlete model benefits the Army’s goal to transform civilians into fit and confident Soldiers.

“We are trying to mimic the way professional athletes are training, which is awesome compared to the way things were when I entered the Army years ago,” he said.

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