|Innovative “BodyARMOR” Program Takes Off
BodyARMOR, a collaborative effort between the departments of athletics, physical therapy, and athletic training, embodies innovation and collaboration between key departments. It also provides high-impact learning to doctor of physical therapy students and student-athletes alike.
Adam Broad works with an LVC athlete
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The program uses preseason testing to analyze student-athletes' movement patterns and identify weaknesses that could lead to non-contact injuries. Student-athletes identified as "at risk" in testing can then be referred for treatment before a serious injury develops. Click here to watch a brief video from a recent LVC men's and women's basketball BodyARMOR session.
When Dr. Michael Lehr, clinical associate professor of physical therapy, founded the BodyARMOR program in 2009, he began with limited financial and personnel resources. The program has since grown exponentially and recently received a boost through the President’s Innovation Fund. “These additional financial resources will elevate the BodyARMOR program significantly so we can obtain assessment data, driving further innovation within the program,” notes Lehr.
“BodyARMOR provides a high-impact, extra-curricular service learning opportunity for the physical therapy doctoral student, enhancing the student’s academic preparation prior to entering the physical therapy profession,” adds Lehr. “It’s also intended to enhance the health and athletic performance of the LVC student-athlete through ‘injury-risk’ assessments and remedial training programs based on the needs of the LVC student-athlete.
“I’m leading the situation more than micromanaging. I make sure the DPT student instructors are educated prior to providing service. I give them specific guidelines to make sure each clinic is running efficiently and each clinic is giving the same quality of service.”
Program participants receive an initial screening that places them in one of three categories, based on the colors of a traffic light: red, yellow, or green. Each then receives personalized options and training to help prevent injury and keep them on their respective field or court.
Among BodyARMOR’s student-instructors are Adam Broad ’12, D’15 and Jennie Good ’12, D’15—a pair of fifth-year DPT students who plan to enter different areas of physical therapy after graduation. Broad plans on working in athletics and uses his time with BodyARMOR to gain orthopedic outpatient experience with athletes. Good is simply looking to diversify her skill set.
As part of their training, each instructor must go through the program. Socially, they carry the exercises over to the gym in their own workouts and hope to set an example for BodyARMOR participants.
“When we do these clinics, we don’t just tell people what to do,” Broad said. “We demonstrate everything, and the athletes know that we’ve been through the same programs. We can’t teach someone effectively if we are unable to do the routines ourselves.”
“When they’re here with us, we answer questions, demonstrate, and serve as a resource as they learn the moves,” Good said.
James Clements ’13, a long-time starting goalkeeper for the LVC men’s soccer team and BodyARMOR participant, agreed, adding that he and other members of his team used the program’s progressions in personal workouts and as part of recovery after matches.
“We know that there’s a really strong physical therapy program here,” Clements said. “The instructors involved have been taught well in how to do the exercises and they know the intended effects of the program. Even doing the exercises in clinic today, I realized that I’ve been doing some things wrong in my form. It’s very helpful.”
Clements is led by someone who champions BodyARMOR in head men’s soccer coach Charlie Grimes. Grimes has worked to ingrain the program into the culture of his team from the day players enroll to the day they graduate.
“The average athlete coming in here doesn’t have the knowledge of how this benefits them,” Grimes said. “Our upperclassmen have been educated to the best of our ability, and they have an understanding of how this has helped them.
“We’re trying to control the controllable. You can’t control somebody slide tackling you in soccer, but you can control something like a lack of flexibility.”
While BodyARMOR was initially based on principles of Functional Movement Systems and Cincinnati Sports Medicine Institute, it remains a research-based program and will continue to develop. Student instructors will play key roles alongside the faculty and staff who oversee the program.
“The participation level has been high,” Broad said. “We want to progress this now—not just in screening techniques and teaching exercises to perform. We want kids to go out and teach their fellow student-athletes how to do the exercises, and then we can put them through a more strenuous activity level. Instead of just using the teaching portion, we can come up with exercises that will carry over into playing their actual sport.”
Lehr notes that “It is rewarding to see how one idea has grown into a program that has the potential to touch so many people within the LVC community. It is humbling to see the program receive national and international attention, which I never expected.”
Lehr acknowledges that the program’s growth has been achieved through the assistance and dedication of many. “In addition to the support of Dr. Stan Dacko [chair of physical therapy] and my colleagues in the Physical Therapy Department, the commitment of the DPT student instructors, Rick Beard [director of athletics], Erin Ulrich (head athletic trainer], Charlie Grimes [head men’s soccer coach], and the LVC coaching staff has been impressive. This has been a team effort from the beginning and the best is yet to come.”