USF Targets Back Pain, Injuries In Military Vets

USF’s School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences was awarded a $1.59 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to fund musculoskeletal research to help soldiers and veterans. The money will be used to evaluate the best prosthetic foot for soldiers, as well as a study on exercise programs that may protect against lower back pain and injuries suffered by military veterans.

“Low back pain and injury is among the top non-battle injuries in the U.S. Armed Forces,” says Dr. John Mayer, associate professor at the USF School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences. “Once active duty military personnel injure their backs, they are very unlikely to return to duty. Currently, there is no standard and validated method that has been shown to be very effective in reducing risk of back pain and injury for active duty military personnel. ”

During the back pain study, researchers will follow approximately 600 soldiers who are training to become combat medics at the Fort Sam Houston Army base.

“The purpose of the first trial is to determine if a 12-week high-intensity exercise program targeting the back extensor muscles results in greater improvement in the functional capacity of the back and core muscles than a general low-intensity core exercise program,” Mayer says. “Assuming positive results from the first trial, other phases will be designed in the future to test and implement the exercise program in multiple sites across the military. ”

For the prosthetic foot study, 28 physically fit people will be put in a double-blind randomized trial. Half of the group will be high-functioning amputee soldiers and veteran, and the other half will be non-amputees. The participants will be evaluated wearing three different prosthetics and performing activities such as walking, running and climbing.
Preliminary results from the studies may be available by the end of 2012.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Dr. John Mayer, USF School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences

Read more articles by Kimberly Patterson.

Kimberly Patterson is a news editor for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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