FORT LEE, Va. (April 11, 2012) -- The Army is assessing a new weapon in its battle against physical training injuries.

Musculoskeletal Action Teams, or MATs, were put into operation at several installations last year as a pilot program to support the Army's new Physical Readiness Training regimen, which strikes a balance between conditioning and injury prevention.

Dr. Matthew R. Pretrone, MAT team leader with the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade, said the latter is a cost-effective means to combating PT injuries.

"A study came out to show that more than a billion dollars is spent each year in the Army on musculoskeletal injuries," he said, noting the costs of treatment, after care and lost time.

The answer to preventing long lines at sick call, said Pretrone, is providing the know-how and guidance to people in the same way professional trainers support professional athletes.

"Soldiers are no different," he said. "They need to have the best available training and the best care possible."

To accomplish its mission, the MAT team -- made up of a physical therapist, physical therapy technician, two strength and conditioning specialists and a physical trainer -- provides on-the-spot guidance to Soldiers who lead physical training sessions.

"We go out and observe the PRT sessions and make sure the exercises are performed according to the guidance provided in the PRT training circular," said Sgt. 1st Class Frederick Scott, MAT team physical therapy technician. "Through correcting body mechanics, we hope to prevent injuries most of the time."

In addition to their observations, members of the MAT team instruct advanced individual training Soldiers on injury prevention and exercise effectiveness and provide therapy sessions and prevention guidance to Soldiers already injured.

Therapy provided to Soldiers who have suffered injuries is somewhat the same as in the past but with one important difference, said Petrone -- there is much more of an emphasis on preventative care.

"When you're done with the physical therapy part, that's when you're trying to say, 'OK, we are going to have to change our mindset and emphasize injury prevention. Yeah, I know you can probably run right now and you're cleared to go, but we need to work on running mechanics, movement patterns, how you do some of these exercises so that you don't get hurt again.'"

Frederick, a Soldier of 16 years, said he sees much benefit in the program versus how the Army handled PT injures in the past.

"We didn't have this," he said of the MAT program. "There wasn't a strength coach to ensure the (exercise) precision pieces were being executed by the Soldiers. Once they were healed and cleared to go back to their units, there was no one to check to see if the Soldiers' movement mechanics were correct to keep them from returning."

On average, the 23rd QM Bde. MAT teams see roughly 400 students per month during physical therapy sessions, said Petrone. Several hundred more are provided instruction on injury prevention.

The MAT teams are a collaborative effort of the Training and Doctrine Command and Medical Command.

The program at Fort Lee, comprised of two clinics (another is located at the Ordnance School's 59th Ordnance Bde.), has been extended for at least another year. While the data is still being analyzed in reference to the program's effectiveness, no decision has been made on whether it will be implemented Army-wide.