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Military injury rehabilitation study to be led by Ohio University professor

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The study has been given a research grant of $750,000 and is set to start next fall.

An assistant professor at Ohio University is leading the charge on a study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense aimed at improving rehabilitation methods for military members with ACL injuries.

Dustin Grooms, an assistant professor at the College of Health Sciences and Professions, will be leading a team of medical professionals over the course of three years in testing patients who have undergone ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, reconstructive surgery.

Grooms — who studies how the brain changes after musculoskeletal injuries — was approached by a scientist from the U.S. Army Research Lab after giving a presentation on his research at a conference.

“Their biggest problem these days is not so much enemy fire,” Grooms said. “It’s that our guys now live long enough where they don’t get shot up as much, but they get hurt in training and they get hurt in military exercises.”

The recovery period for an ACL tear is long; the standard of care is reconstructive surgery, followed by at least six months of therapy.

Grooms explained that his research has found that the brain and nervous system change when an individual experiences a structural injury, like spraining an ankle or a knee joint.

While traditional therapy methods for structural injuries focused more on repairing muscular strength and recovering walking movement patterns, Grooms’ research has shown the brain starts to rewire as a result of the therapy.

This sometimes causes these types of injuries to appear healed when a patient is in clinical therapy, until the joint is overloaded. According to Grooms, this is a result of the brain rewiring itself.

“We have to understand that these orthopedic problems influence your nervous system, which in turn influences how you function in the world,” Grooms said. “We need to address them in therapy.”

Addressing these influences on the brain is exactly what Grooms’ study is going to aim to pinpoint.

 

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