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Pitt Receives $7.5M in Department of Defense Funds to Support Rehab Services for Military Personnel

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 21, 2017 – Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) recently received a combined $7.5 million in grant funding from the Department of Defense, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. The three funded projects will study aspects of both physical and mental recovery to improve care practices for future active and retired service members.
 
Studying Cognitive Readiness and Resilience
Given the unpredictable nature of the armed forces, military personnel face a unique set of stressors that are taxing to the mind as well as the body. Bradley Nindl, Ph.D., SHRS professor and director of Pitt’s Neuromuscular Research Laboratory, and Anne Germain, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the Pitt School of Medicine and director of Pitt’s Sleep and Behavioral Neuroscience Center, received $2.5 million to study the mental readiness and resiliency of military service members. This grant will be used to develop a comprehensive series of cognitive, behavioral and sensorimotor readiness metrics to evaluate, validate and encourage mental preparedness for military service.
 
Determining Optimal Timing of Surgery and Rehabilitation for Knee Injuries
Individuals with multiple ligament knee injuries (MLKIs), in which two or more of the major ligaments in the knee are torn, face many challenges during recovery, including the potential for poor wound healing, neurovascular injuries and persistent pain and instability, all of which can contribute to limitations in returning to high demand activities such as military training, physical labor and sports. James Irrgang, Ph.D., chair of the SHRS Department of Physical Therapy, and Volker Musahl, M.D., chief of sports medicine in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, received $4.5 million to investigate the effects of timing of surgery and post-operative rehabilitation on time to return to pre-injury military duty, work and sports for military personnel and civilians with MLKIs. This large-scale trial is needed to determine the best timing for surgery and rehabilitation to optimize return to military duty and everyday life.
 
Avoiding Complications When Using Prosthetics
Service members and veterans who have lost limbs and use prostheses are at increased risk for pressure sores, impaired blood perfusion and accidental falls due to the microclimate created by sweat inside the prosthetic socket. Goeran Fiedler, Ph.D., assistant professor of prosthetics and orthotics at SHRS, received $500,000 to study temperature control liners for prosthetics, which utilize phase-change material to reduce the body’s tendency to sweat. The study will follow participants over 12 months to determine whether the liners demonstrate clinically meaningful effects, and therefore decrease the risk of these secondary complications.
 
“We are honored to use our expertise to advance health care and quality of life for those who have so valiantly served our country,” said David Brienza, Ph.D., SHRS associate dean of research. “These three projects fill critical research needs and stand to make a tremendous difference in the lives of our country’s military personnel.”
 
In addition to these three projects, SHRS faculty currently are involved with more than 70 research initiatives across the school, which is supported by more than $21 million in funding. To learn more, visit the SHRS website.
 
This work was supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs under Award Nos. W81XWH-17-2-0073, W81XWH-17-2-007 and W81XWH-17-1-0700. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Department of Defense.

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