Training And Rehabilitation Support Program Created
The United States efforts in athletic endeavors have long been the envy of the world, and our sports medicine and advanced training for elite athletes is the best anywhere on earth.
Now, some of that same acumen and training techniques are headed to usage by the United States Navy SEAL teams, courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh, the UPMC School of Health and Rehabilitation, and the UP Center for Sports Medicine.
U.S. Navy SEAL’s are the best of the best, the true warrior elite. They train in some of the harshest and most grueling conditions, and their training had long been known to be the most challenging and most difficult in the United State Military. But this training sometimes results in stress fractures, muscle injuries, and resulting down time. This is counter productive to team cohesion and overall military readiness.
The new project announced Wednesday creates a new UPMC laboratory on the Little Creek Virginia SEAL team base near Norfolk. The new facility was announced to be a $2.1 million dollar addition to be administered by the University of Pittsburgh School of Rehabilitation and Health Sciences, and the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.
“We know that the most devastating and important system weapon that we have in Special Warfare is the SEAL Team commando himself, said the commander of Navy Special Weapons Group Two.
Captain Chaz Heron is the Commander of Group Two, and a proponent of the new training and physical health program on the SEAL base. “We seek to keep our operators at peak performance, to give them every battlefield edge we can for their success. We want to have them able to utilize every possible advantage to increase mission success chances,” said Captain Heron.
The UPMC program will study and devise different ways for the Navy to reduce injuries in their SEAL team programs, and try to find different ways to make the training that they participate in more effective for their use. The aim is to improve physical training, and reduce training injuries and combat related injuries.
The new research team is the brainchild and product of Dr. Scott Lephart. Dr. Lephart is the founder of a very successful program located on the grounds of Fort Campbell. Fort Campbell is the home of the 5th Special Operations Group, as well as the 101st Airborne.
Dr. Lephart worked to create a sports injury and neuromuscular medicine facility at Fort Campbell, to benefit the soldiers there. According to the commanding general of 101st airborne, even in the early stages it was obvious that the program was a success.
“The early results have been profound and immediate. The new approaches to conditioning and fitness began by Dr. Lephart are reducing injury rates and increasing combat effectiveness and soldier levels of individual readiness,” wrote Major General Jeffrey Schloesser.
General Schloesser is the commanding general of the 101st Airborne, and a supporter of the work done by Dr. Lephart and his UPMC team. “Medical and Unite leaders have been able to have a increased awareness of where training shortfalls are, and it is improving our physical training and success dramatically,” said General Schloesser.
Because of this, the Navy sat up and took interest. They immediately saw that a similar program could potentially benefit SEAL team members and operators who need to be at their best for each mission, and the Navy sees it as a potential win – win regarding reducing injuries and improving efficiency.
The Navy approached Dr. Lephart and asked if he would be willing to set up a program for them on their base in Little Creek, Virginia, near Norfolk. Dr. Lephart agreed, and began to design the new program with funding from the U.S. Navy.
The new laboratory is based on the top UPMC Research and Neuromuscular lab that has been so successful with top elite athletes since the 1990s. The Research and Neuromuscular lab in Pittsburgh is located down on the South side, in the UPMC Sports Medicine facility.
Dr. Lephart is internationally known for his work in Neuromuscular and Sports Medicine research, and he brings a team of two professionals with him to the new Little Creek SEAL base facility.
Anthony Zimmer, a certified sports athletic trainer and an exercise physiologist, Greg Hovey will be on staff at the new clinic to help Dr. Lephart as he works with individual SEAL Team members to set up training programs.
The lab is slated to be state of the art, with physiological and biomechanical instruments including devices to measure skin fold thickness, body fat percentages, and equipment that will monitor and record stress levels of individuals while they are exercising.
The military has had much of the same training for decades, marked by group runs and the PT morning calisthenics that are done in ranks. While this has proven successful over the long run, there is a more individualized approach available. Just like a professional basketball player has different training and physical tasks he performs than a water polo swimmer, a person who plays tennis uses different methods and performs differently than someone who plays hockey.
SEAL’s have different jobs and need to do different tasks than other personnel in the military, and in this manner their training should also be unique. “We have to base our training and fitness program on the needs of the particular athlete, in this case the warrior athlete.” Said Dr. Lephart.
Another issue for concern is that the typical diet for many people serving in the military, even among the warrior elite such as SEAL team members tends to be poor. “The dietary habits of personnel in the military can be at times very poor,” said Dr Lephart. One solution could be if the U.S. Navy adopted a similar program that college and professional sports teams utilize, a team training table where everyone eats together.
“Knowing when to eat and drink is as important for your muscles and your body as what you drink and eat. You should make sure that your muscles get some glucose inside of a half hour time span after you exercise,” said Dr. Lephart. Dr. Lephart and his team plan to address and aid the SEAL team members in their nutrition and food choices.
“The specific program of training has to be related to the tasks that a person is being asked to perform,” said Dr. Lephart. “We look to try and optimize performance based on the program we tailor to the specific athlete and their needs and demands,” remarked Dr. Lephart.
“We realized that the team led by Dr. Lephart is known around the world for success with elite athletes, and successes in sports rehabilitation and sports medicine. We want that for our operators, as our SEAL’s are just that, a warrior elite athlete,” said Lieutenant David Luckett.
Lt. Luckett serves as public affairs officer and spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Group Two in Virginia.
Many times the individuals who are selected to become members of the elite Navy SEAL teams arrive bruised, knocked around and nearly broken. The six-month training program a person goes through before being assigned to a SEAL team is the hardest training to be found in the U.S. Military, and it takes its toll. “Simply put, they often arrive broken,” said Dr. Lephart.
Part of the effort by Dr. Lephart and his team will be to teach SEAL team members not only how to exercise better, but how to exercise smarter. “Sometimes that is as simple as knowing when your body needs repair and its time to stop.” Said Dr. Lephart.