Providing one-on-one physical therapy to Team Army at DoD Warrior Games
By Joseph Jones, Madigan Army Medical Center Public Affairs

TAMPA, Fla. -- In any professional sporting event, you can often find physical therapists tending to the participating athletes. For the Department of Defense Warrior Games, a week-long adaptive sports competition for service members and veterans who are wounded, ill, or injured-the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Care Program has those same resources available to its athletes, who are supported by an interdisciplinary health care team, including a physical therapist who tends to each athlete with an individual-based treatment approach.

Warrior Games aside, physical therapists are assigned at every one of the Warrior Transition Battalions that the U.S. Army has established at major military treatment facilities at 14 military installations. At WTBs, PTs care for injured, ill and wounded Soldiers year-round, assisting in their physical reconditioning therapy, which includes their participation in adaptive sports.

Louis Cortez, a Fort Bliss WTB physical therapist, is the PT supporting Team Army at the DoD Warrior Games this year, providing that vital one-on-one care to the athletes. "First and foremost, when you have a Soldier who's a hard-charger, and that's (initiative) taken away due to an injury or illness, they can lose themselves and sometimes need that focus again. It's a lifestyle change, but they are still able to do these things, just at a different level or in a new way," said Cortez.

Last year, Cortez was awarded the 2018 "Spirit of Hope Award" at the Pentagon. The award, named after the late comedian Bob Hope, who was also a prolific supporter of the U.S. Military, is presented to one individual or an organization selected by each branch of service as well as an honoree from the Office of the Secretary of Defense who characterize the values Hope embodied: duty, honor, courage, loyalty, commitment, integrity, and selfless dedication.

"Today's honorees embody that commitment," said Michael Rhodes, Director of Administration and Management, Office of the Secretary of Defense during an awards ceremony at the Pentagon, Sept. 28. 2018. "They embody that spirit, and they embody the best attributes of (Hope). You serve those who protect this nation, you serve those who protect the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis, so it is an honor to publicly thank and recognize these patriots for what they do for our nation to improve the lives of our troops."

Cortez has helped hundreds of wounded, ill and injured Soldiers with the WTB for over three years, providing its Soldiers with an innovative and individual-based approach to physical therapy, resulting in many making full recoveries from otherwise debilitating injuries and physical combat-related trauma. Cortez is applying that same standard of care at the 2019 DoD Warrior Games.

"It does so much for these athletes mentally as well. That's what I have seen from adaptive sports. I have been a physical therapist for over 21 years," said Cortez. "Nothing gives me greater pleasure than helping someone achieve their goal. That's one way I can contribute to help them."

Warrior Transition Battalions similar to Cortez' are the foundation of the Warrior Care and Transition Program and play an integral role in assisting wounded, ill and injured Soldiers as they recover and overcome. The DoD Warrior Games are a culmination of adaptive sports reconditioning that takes place in the WTBs, in the form of an adaptive sports competition for the athletes selected to participate.

The 2019 DoD Warrior Games run from June 21-30 in Tampa, Florida. The athletes participating in the competition are comprised of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Command. Athletes from the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, Armed Forces of the Netherlands, and the Danish Armed Forces are also competing in this year's DoD Warrior Games.

For more information about the 2019 DoD Warrior Games visit: https://dodwarriorgames.com