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Warrior Athletic Training program expands to treat soldiers in nearly all Ft. Benning training units

 

Athletic trainers participate in military training activities to help them better understand the stresses placed on their patients' bodies and how injuries can occur.

Athletic trainers participate in military training activities to help them better understand the stresses placed on their patients' bodies and how injuries can occur.

A $3.2 million grant is expanding Auburn University's Warrior Athletic Training program at Ft. Benning.

Through the Warrior Athletic Training program, athletic trainers from the Auburn University School of Kinesiology and Ft. Benning work with military personnel to provide identification, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of injuries.

"The program has been extremely beneficial to my unit," said Lt. Col. Matthew Scalia, commander of the 1-46 Infantry Regiment at Ft. Benning. "Because of the rigors of training, including running, obstacle courses, foot marches and field training, injuries are common. The Warrior Athletic trainers are able to identify small injuries early and keep them from being injuries that prevent trainees from completing training."

Video courtesy of Ft. Benning TV.

Scalia said that it is easy for him to recognize the benefits of the program, most obviously in that trainees miss less training time due to injuries and medical appointments. In addition, Warrior Athletic trainers are able to spend more one-on-one time with trainees to assess their problems, provide helpful stretches and exercises, and in more extreme cases, refer trainees to a doctor for more in-depth screening.

"The most important benefits are less training time missed and early diagnosis and prevention," he said.

With the expansion funding, the program is now in 16 sites working in nearly all the training units on Ft. Benning.

"This program serves more than 30,000 soldiers and 500 cadre a year and has saved the Army millions of dollars in medical costs, as well as several hundred thousand hours in lost training time," said JoEllen Sefton, director of the program and associate professor in Auburn's School of Kinesiology. "We are now spread across four brigades and the Warrior Transition Battalion, including the ranger training brigade, airborne, sniper school and others."

Athletic trainers screen soldier trainees at Ft. Benning for a research project on ankle sprains.

Athletic trainers screen soldier trainees at Ft. Benning for a research project on ankle sprains.

Scalia said he expects each unit to experience similar benefits, though the types of injuries will vary because each battalion has a different and specific training focus.
"However," he said, "the athletic trainers' ability to identify problems early will allow soldiers to continue training sooner."

Half of the licensed, nationally certified athletic trainers involved in the program are graduate students at Auburn, working toward a research-based master's degree in exercise science. Others are full-time athletic trainers who work at Ft. Benning. The athletic trainers are even given the opportunity to participate in military training activities to help them better understand the stresses placed on their patients' bodies and how injuries can occur.

"What makes this program unique for Auburn students is that it is the only place where graduate assistant athletic trainers can receive this type of training to gain experience providing sports medicine care to soldiers," Sefton said. "The full-time athletic trainers at Ft. Benning are gaining intense and fast-paced clinical experience and are part of the Army team in a way they won't find anywhere else."

Scalia said he hopes Ft. Benning will continue to support the program, especially for entry-level units, in order to keep soldiers training through to completion and that he believes in the long-term the program will provide data to the Army which will assist in improving physical training methods and rehabilitation programs.

Video courtesy of Ft. Benning TV.

"The program is only as good as its support from the cadre," he said. "In my unit, if the drill sergeants don't believe in the Warrior Athletic Training program's value, they won't send trainees to be seen. Fortunately, my cadre members are enormous advocates of it and are quick to send a limping trainee to the athletic trainers for evaluation. As an even more valuable indicator, the cadre members themselves often come for evaluation of their own ailments, including yours truly."

Sefton said that the Warrior Athletic Training program has led to other research collaborations and projects as well as the development of the Warrior Research Center.

"The Warrior Research Center is really an over-encompassing structure to bring together the resources of Auburn University and develop connections for those who want to work with the military so we can share networks, collaborate to get funding and offer a central place for the military to come to say, ‘I need this resource,' so we can direct them to that resource," Sefton explained. "Those who want to work with the Department of Defense or the military or first responders can come and say, ‘help us do this.' The goal is not to have it as just a School of Kinesiology entity, but to have it as a place where we can all share our resources and help each other."

By Carol Nelson, Office of Communications & Marketing

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Last Updated: Feb. 19, 2014

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