Fort Bragg’s XVIII Airborne Corps recently introduced a revolutionary program for certain Soldiers transitioning out of physical therapy.
The program, called SPARTA, is designed to “strengthen and prevent reinjury” to certain Soldiers, according to Maj. Jay Hanson, Medical Operations Officer, Surgeon’s Office, XVII Abn. Corps.
Hanson said XVIII Abn. Corps leaders implemented the program due to the high recurring injury rate for musculoskeletal injuries. Previously, Soldiers did not have an effective way to address the reconditioning component of recovery, said Capt. Brent Call, physical therapy officer in charge, Womack Army Medical Center.
“So this is a reconditioning program trying to build strength and address any lingering movement deficits that folks have after rehab is complete,” he said.
Soldiers are identified for the program by the WAMC physical therapy department. All participants have been discharged from physical therapy and have no lingering pain from their injury.
During SPARTA, Soldiers, or athletes as they are called in the program, are required to attend training at Frederick Physical Fitness center twice a week from 7 to 8:30 a.m.
In their first session, athletes complete a functional movement screen, motor control screen, dynamic balance test and more to determine their current movement deficits.
Once athletes are deemed eligible to participate in the program, WAMC physical therapists design a program to address their individualized strength and conditioning needs.
Training programs are based off of six different movement patterns, according to Call.
“The squat, the hinge, the push-pull, the carry and then the movement components,” he said.
The training mainly focuses on larger movement groups, explained Call. At the beginning of each gym session, athletes are required to complete certain stretches and exercises that address their specific movement deficits.
After completing the initial exercises, athletes go through a strength workout based off of the movement focus of the day. Call said they then progress to a metabolic conditioning piece where the athletes are constantly moving and trying to increase their aerobic capacity.
“Then we do a recovery period which consists of those corrective exercises addressing the deficits again,” he said. “So, we’re kind of sandwiching the workout with corrective exercises to address their movement deficits so we can see those improve with the six week period while getting them stronger and improving their aerobic capacity.”
Although physical therapists develop the individualized programs, Master Fitness Trainers actually lead the workouts. Participating MFTs said the training has been beneficial for them as well as the athletes.
“I’ve taught it back to my unit,” said Jason Ekis, MFT. “We’ve been doing strength and conditioning once a week now.”
Ekis said he has seen a “pretty big” increase in strength and metabolic conditioning of the athletes with whom he has worked.
In addition to increasing strength and condition, the goal of the program is to teach athletes how to train smarter, not harder, said Matt Hartshorne, physical therapist, WAMC.
“A lot of people do exercises in the gym they see other people doing or they see on YouTube,” he said “Every exercise has its place it’s just understanding why are we doing what exercise.”
Hartshorne said the program highlights where athletes have sufficient skills and what they can improve to reach peak performance.
“Its finding that weak link in the chain and making it stronger,” he said.
Soldiers are discharged from the program when they show measurable strength gains, explained Hanson.