Optimizing Soldier Performance at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine

U.S. Army physical therapist Maj. Richard B. Westrick, DPT, talks about his work at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM).

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From their initial entry training throughout their career soldiers are required to perform high level, physical demanding tasks. We ask them to do things in austere environments and we ask them to do that with a lot of equipment and wearing a lot of load. Our mission is to conduct research to enhance the both cognitive and physical performance of soldiers and also to find ways to mitigate injuries. We currently have biomechanics studies going on, looking at the way soldier loads affect the way they move. USARIEM is one of the only locations where there are physical therapists who do full time research for the Army. We recently conducted a study known as the occupational physical assessment test which is essentially designed to help us find the right soldier for the right job. Musculoskeletal injuries, things like sprains, strains, low back pain, are one of the largest burdens to our military readiness in the Army. Ideally some of the work that I’m performing and I’m performing with my colleagues will help prevent injuries for soldiers and at least help some soldiers who are injured get back to duty rapidly.