After 18 months of physical therapy treating a shoulder injury, Warrior Transition Battalion Soldier Staff Sgt. Jason Willits’ only goal was to return to duty. Six months ago, he expressed concern to his leadership that he may not be able to pass a physical training test.
Through a partnership between the Kansas State University Athletics Training program and the WTB, Willits passed his PT test with a score of 70 percent and has become a success story for other Soldiers to follow.
The Athletic Training program prepares students for careers as allied-health professionals and prepares them for the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Board of Certification examination, leading to certification and the credential of certified athletic trainers, according to the K-State website. Students in this program study the concepts and skills to properly manage the health care problems associated with physical activity.
“This is a beautiful partnership, and it benefits the students, as well as our Soldiers who receive extra care,” said Capt. Joshua Mantz, WTB executive officer. “This semester, we decided to use this for our Soldiers who were highly motivated. They worked with our Soldiers every Wednesday and traveled here from K-State on their own dime.”
“We rehabilitate Soldiers to return to duty and get back to their full potential,” said Darcy Milligan, K-State Athletics Training program student.
“We want to make sure they go through the rehab program and do their best when they return to duty.”
Participating in the program was a great benefit for Willits, he said, and it enhanced his overall physical training goal.
“It was a great supplement, and I would not have had that creativity on my own,” he said. “Physical therapy was good at getting back to full range of motion and some strengths, but specific to pushups and pull-ups, I needed supplemental assistance, and they provided that.”
The partnership not only benefits Soldiers, it also provides students with the opportunity to enhance their education, said Morgan Campbell, K-State Athletic Training Program instructor. “It’s really important that our students see different populations and recognize Soldiers are athletic. And when they get injured, they need to be treated like athletes and treated just as aggressively.”
The goal is to provide Soldiers tools to use and enhance physical therapy they are currently providing, Campbell said.
“There is a little bit of a hole between when they’re getting better from their injuries and out of rehab and on their own, but still not able to return to duty,” Campbell said. “We’re not trying to replicate their physical therapy, we’re just filling in that extra physical activity, where they can stay active and return to duty faster.”
“The experience I had was absolutely phenomenal,” said Molly Strand, a recent K-State Athletic Training Program graduate. “We see the same injuries at the sports medicine level, and here we get to see injuries that are not common and very complex. This is a unique opportunity and provides a more well-rounded education.”
By Tywanna Sparks
IACH Public Affairs