ATCs Assist Medical Staff and Drill Instructors in Helping Recruits Avoid Musculoskeletal Injuries, and Quickly Return Them to Full Duty if They’ve Been Impaired
DALLAS, March 26 – The Few. The Proud. The Physically Fit. Becoming a United States Marine takes a special kind of person -- someone with integrity, ironclad discipline, a strong sense of responsibility and the ability to meet the highest physical standards. To achieve such fitness goals, new recruits, both men and women, undergo 12 weeks of rigorous training at the Marine Corps Recruit Training Depots at either Parris Island, S.C. (men and all women) or San Diego (men only) where company commanders, drill instructors, martial arts instructor trainers and other staff oversee their overall health and their military/combat specific physical conditioning. During these three months, recruits must endure considerable physical challenges by running more than 50 miles, hiking more than 40 miles, attaining basic combat water survival and martial arts qualifications, negotiating various obstacle courses and completing “The Crucible” – a 54-hour test of mental and physical endurance punctuated by food and sleep deprivation. Due to the strenuous training involved, it’s not uncommon for recruits to suffer from stress fractures, sprains and other injuries. Helping them avoid musculoskeletal problems and lost training days are among the key reasons why the Marine Corps launched a pilot program with certified athletic trainers (ATCs) in June 2003. By having ATCs working alongside and advising other medical team members in the Sports Medicine and Reconditioning Team (SMART) clinic, they believe injuries can be reduced, thanks to suggested changes made in training tactics, techniques, procedures and policies. “With the assistance of the ATCs, the pilot program treats Marines as ‘Warrior Athletes,’ by rapidly returning injured recruits to full duty, and preventing re-injury,” says Major Kenneth White, public affairs officer at Parris Island, S.C. Represented by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), ATCs are allied health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses that occur to athletes and the physically active. Anne Curry, MS, ATC, CSCS, 4th Recruit Training Battalion and DI School, and Josh E. Lundgaard, ATC, CSCS, 1st and 2nd Recruit Training Battalions are two of the three certified athletic trainers and pilot program participants at Parris Island who not only attend to the constant needs of recruits, but also drill instructor candidates who must endure an even more arduous training program before they earn the right to train recruits themselves. “I work to prevent recruit injuries by educating the ‘Chain of Command’ on the importance of frequent stretching early in training, and ensuring that the recruits are issued proper, well-fitting equipment, including the right footwear and arch support,” says Lundgaard. “Treatment usually consists of teaching the recruit stretching techniques and when to apply ice.” Since the program began, the most immediate benefit, according to Curry, is the ability to treat injured recruits within the Battalion. “We don’t have to send them to the main clinic, which results in less time out of training.” “Under the previous system,” adds Lundgaard, “only recruits with severe injuries were sent for rehabilitation. Now it is available on a daily basis in the same building as sick call. Many more recruits receive proper and early rehabilitation.” On some days, Curry evaluates and treats as many as 17 recruits. Lundgaard reports that the number he sees each day varies, depending on, among other things, the stage of training of the recruits and the time of year. During March, ATCs across America, including Curry and Lundgaard, are celebrating National Athletic Training Month. This year’s theme is “Injury Treatment: Early Care Speeds Recovery.” “Our work fits right in line with this theme,” says Curry. “Our program is based on the ‘Public Health Model,’ which emphasizes ‘Primary Injury Prevention,’ and ‘Secondary Injury Prevention,’ which is defined as an accelerated return to duty, accurate and timely evaluation, aggressive rehab and reconditioning.” According to Major White, the preliminary results indicate the program is beneficial. Along with Parris Island, SMART centers are also located at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In the long run, will the ATCs’ assistance make the recruits better Marines? “Yes,” says Timothy L. Bockelman, KT, CSCS, physical fitness advisor, sports medicine injury prevention coordinator, who oversees the program at Parris Island. “The amount of time in which recruits graduate from training and get attached to a unit that is deployed to Iraq, for example, can be relatively short. Any lingering injury from recruit training would have a negative impact on performance and combat readiness. From the standpoint of physical readiness, I believe the ATCs’ contributions will make a significant impact.” About the NATA: Certified athletic trainers (ATCs) are unique health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses that occur to athletes and the physically active. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports 30,000 members of the athletic training profession through education and research. www.nata.org. NATA, 2952 Stemmons Freeway, Ste. 200, Dallas, TX 75247, 214.637.6282; 214.637.2206 (fax).