Getting Back on the Athletic Field/Battlefield

Are you ready for some football?!?!? Of course we are!

Unfortunately,the start of football season means being ready for treating the injuries that come along with the sport. And the same can be said for injuries sustained by servicemembers.

Fortunately, the West Point – Baylor joint-service doctoral program for physical therapists exists!

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West Point cadet athletes are screened for injury risk using the Functional Movement Screening (FMS) assessment (Photo courtesy of Keller Army Community Hospital).

The U.S. Military – Baylor University Doctoral Residency in Sports Physical Therapy is a joint-service doctoral (D.Sc.) and American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) credentialed sports residency program for active duty physical therapists in the Army, Air Force, and Navy.  The program was founded in 1994 by COL Charles “Chuck” Scoville at the United States Military Academy – West Point and  is the only post-professional sports medicine program for military PTs.

The 18-month program consists of rigorous, advanced sports medicine focused training designed to prepare experienced physical therapists to be clinical experts for neuromusculoskeletal conditions from the point-of-injury, through evidence-based therapeutic intervention, and return to military duty.

The program is divided into four semesters and the curriculum includes a comprehensive array of clinically relevant topics. Additionally the residents complete sports-specific special topics such as athletic injuries, athletic taping, on-the-field emergency care, dermatology, and performance enhancement.

The program is located in the Arvin Physical Development Center at Keller Army Community Hospital. Being located at West Point provides the residents the opportunity to work directly with Division I college athletes, Competitive Club Sports athletes, Intramural athletes, and military trainees, all in one location. In addition, residents gain experience providing sports medicine coverage to “All-Army” sports competitions (including the Military World Games), Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and the Army 10-Miler.

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Air Force Capt. Nathan Shepard, sports medicine physical therapy doctoral resident, assesses West Point cadet Andrew Soncini’s foot injury during physical therapy’s sick call (Photo courtesy of Keller Army Community Hospital).

Below, U.S. Army Maj. Richard Westrick, talks more about the benefits of the program in a Q&A session:

1) What makes this particular program so unique?

It is the only post-professional sports medicine program for military PTs. The residency was the one of the first in the nation to be formally credentialed by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) in 1998.

2) Share with us some of the ‘cool and innovative’ projects you are currently working on.

The residents are each working on research including:  The effects of dry needling for hamstring strain injuries,  Injury prediction and injury patterns in young adults, and closed-chain assessments of shoulder function in post-operative shoulder patients.  We are also working on studies looking at the safety of dry needling performed by physical therapists, development of military-specific outcomes measures for musculoskeletal injuries, as well as the use of spot-fluoroscopy in a military physical therapy setting.

The current class of residents has had amazing opportunities:  They have had site-visits with the NY Giants football program, the New England Patriots, and the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC.  They have collaborated with the Michigan Institute for Human Performance working on musculoskeletal assessment strategies.  They have provided sports medicine coverage for the US Military Wounded Warrior Games in Colorado Springs and will be providing coverage for the Taekwondo Military World Championship in Texas next month.  They have assisted with teaching courses for the physical therapy school at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. This fall the residents will also be teaching continuing education courses for the New York Physical Therapy Association (Hudson Valley Chapter).

3) What impact does your program have on what the Army/Department of Defense is doing in the field of medicine?

The on-the-field experience and sports medicine skills obtained by our residents on the “fields of friendly strife” at West Point, prepare them to provide the highest quality care for our military tactical athletes and to act as subject-matter-experts best suited to mentor fellow military PTs.  The residents teach continuing education courses at the US Army “Kersey Advanced Clinical Practice Course” for military PTs at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio each year. Additionally, the research conducted by the residents helps further develop treatment and assessment strategies useful for military PTs.

Interested in the program? Visit to learn more. Prospective students can also contact LTC Michael Johnson, Program Director and Associate Professor, at [at]

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Getting Back on the Athletic Field/Battlefield