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Phys Ther. 2013 Sep;93(9):1268-75. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20120136. Epub 2013 May 2.

The role of U.S. military physical therapists during recent combat campaigns.

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  • 1Graduate School, Academy of Health Sciences, US Army-Baylor University Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy, Army Medical Department Center and School, Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234, USA.


U.S. military physical therapists have a proud history of providing medical care during operational deployments ranging from war to complex humanitarian emergencies. Regardless of austerity of environment or intensity of hostility, U.S. military physical therapists serve as autonomous providers, evaluating and treating service members with and without physician referral. This perspective article suggests that the versatility of U.S. military physical therapist practice enables them not only to diagnose musculoskeletal injuries but also to provide a wide range of definitive care and rehabilitation, reducing the need for costly evacuation. War is not sport, but the delivery of skilled musculoskeletal physical therapy services as close to the point of injury as possible parallels the sports medicine model for on- or near-field practice. This model that mixes direct access with near-immediate access enhances outcomes, reduces costs, and allows other health care team members to work at the highest levels of their licensure.

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