JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
Starting with barely a handful of staff members located in a small area of the Reid Clinic, the 559th Medical Group’s Versatile Injury Prevention and Embedded Reconditioning Clinic is now maturing to approximately a dozen members and spreading through five different clinics in the Joint Base San Antonio area.
The VIPER clinic allows trainees to remain in their training, thus, increasing their potential of graduating on time. The team’s goal is to prevent injuries that would result in reduced musculoskeletal injury attrition, lost training time and increased Airmen production by inserting sports medicine teams in the training environment.
“We partnered with the 59th Medical Wing to bring the 323rd Training Squadron clinic on line with our two athletic trainers,” said Dr. Reid Fisher, VIPER clinic co-director of sports medicine grant and assistant professor. “[Our two athletic trainers] served coverage for musculoskeletal care for 10,742 trainees in the first 18 months.”
On a daily basis, the clinic writes personalized exercise prescriptions for injured trainees. Additionally, the VIPER team performs video and observational analysis to assess patients' running form and give them posture training.
“Many of the trainees we encounter are on their second or even third life plan, and some are becoming US citizens through this process. It is very fulfilling to be a part of this journey,” said Jarod Spraggins, an athletic trainer embedded with the 323rd TRS.
Data collected shows the VIPER clinic has had a positive affect with on time graduation and lowering the attrition rate in the squadrons. The clinic demonstrated a 25% reduction in trainee attrition, 37% lower healthcare visits for injury and 40% lower time away for injury care since opening the clinic in January of 2016, saving approximately $1.2 million.
“I really enjoy this program,” Spraggins said. “We are essentially helping to keep the pipeline to the Air Force flowing with viable trainees, helping to send Airmen into Tech schools and forward into the operational Air Force.”
The VIPER program has provided the first set of strong data within the Department of Defense, measuring the effectiveness of athletic trainer integration. The athletic training profession proactively engages in patient care by taking medical management into the field. By doing so, the clinic is able to treat patients on site and earlier than waiting for patients to self-report problems.
“We're helping people overcome a challenge required to obtain career-driven goal,” Fisher said. “We've got the unique ability to help individuals and their families by minimizing the influence and prevalence of injury.”
There is an inherent trust developed by embedding within a team. The embedded approach to military medicine with the intent of mitigating injury through early interventions and working closely with physicians and physical therapist, demonstrates measurable impacts of reduced injury and reduced loss of training time.
“The benefit to the training side is obvious to the trainee and their Military Training Instructors, but we can now show the benefits in quantifying the cost avoidance associated with our efforts,” Fisher said. “Ultimately, we hope this provides increased support for athletic trainers across the DoD. We take pride in the work they've done with us for the Air Force, and we hope to continue our relationship with the 59th MDW and 737th Training Group.”