Zero-gravity treadmill helping injured recruits heal faster
Military turns to Alter-G treadmill
Last Updated: 246 days ago
SAN DIEGO -
New numbers obtained by 10News reveal a change in philosophy about injuries is paying dividends at military boot camp.
Some gravity-defying equipment is one of several tools now aimed at helping injured Marines.
"It's hard to describe. You feel like your weight is lifted into the air," said First Lt. Jeremy Mclean.
Mclean is running on a treadmill and treading into the realm of zero-gravity as he recovers from a fractured knee suffered in a motorcycle accident.
He steps into a bag attached to the treadmill. As it expands, the air pressure difference helps lift the body and body weight to take pressure off the feet. The Alter-G has gained wide acceptance at hospitals and professional sports teams.
After countless sessions on the treadmill, a few days ago, Mclean got the good news.
"I am back to full duty now," said Mclean.
Normally, for a fracture, it takes up to a month and a half to get back on your feet, then several more weeks to get back in shape.
The treadmill allows the conditioning to begin a lot quicker.
"Once their bones have healed, it's less time they'll need to get their bodies back in condition," said Scott Lafalce, an athletic trainer working at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego
The quicker return to boot camp also benefits taxpayers by reducing housing and training expenses.
The treadmill is part of a switch in philosophy toward sports medicine that began with a pilot program a decade ago.
"We treat them as warrior athletes," said Lafalce.
Seven athletic trainers now roam MCRD ready to diagnose injuries to prevent further injury.
New recruits and their drill instructors are coached by the trainers on how to prevent injuries in the first place, and the new direction appears to be working.
A decade ago, nearly 5 percent of recruits suffered fractures. This year, it's about 1.5 percent -- a drop of more than 500 injuries.
MCRD trainers believe the faster recovery times -- which may be by several weeks in some cases -- also increase morale and reduce dropout rates.
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