Newswise — Bethesda, Md. – A new, four-year program has been established to improve rehabilitative care for service members with musculoskeletal injury, ultimately enhancing overall military readiness, thanks to a $15 million grant from the Defense Health Agency awarded to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU).

The program, referred to as the Collaboratory for Musculoskeletal Injury Rehabilitation Research (CMIRR), was created in support of the estimated 800,000 service members effected by musculoskeletal injury each year. These injuries result in 25 million days of limited duty, and 34 percent of medical evacuations from the battlefield.

The CMIRR is based at USU and will be overseen by USU’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, under the direction of principal investigator Dr. Nelson Hager, a retired Army lieutenant colonel with more than three decades of clinical expertise. The program will foster interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships between the services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Coast Guard), the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense (DoD), and several major civilian academic medical centers. The program will also include a broad scope of research projects related to epidemiology, as well as pilot trials and prospective multi-site clinical trials.

CMIRR scientists will look at general musculoskeletal injury care processes and targeted treatments for back, knee, and shoulder pain. The program will also study effective methods for returning to running after injury, and returning to duty activities. Research projects will involve cellular therapy interventions and will also explore ways to optimize frequency, intensity, and duration of therapeutic exercise.

Results of these studies will lead to evidence-based approaches to guide clinical practice guidelines and enhanced education for our future military providers (e.g. medical, nursing, therapy students) and scientists. The knowledge gained through CMIRR will also be disseminated more broadly to the military, veteran, and civilian communities, ultimately enhancing the care of these injuries across the nation.

The CMIRR will be guided by a steering committee composed of members from the Joint Program Committees at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, military operational leaders, and experts in musculoskeletal medicine from the military and civilian communities to maintain a military mission focus. Scientific mentors will also be brought in from other military and academic facilities, including other federal and non-federal agencies to maximize the impact of the research effort. The CMIRR will also be a platform for capacity building within the Military Health System for the development of clinical researchers focused on the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and the promotion of military readiness. This will be done by supporting and mentoring young investigators and leveraging the educational platforms that already exist within USU and Army Medical Department Center and School.

USU has entered into a cooperative agreement with The Geneva Foundation, based in Tacoma, Wash., for operational support and execution of the CMIRR.  

Retired Army Col. (Dr.) Paul Pasquina, chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at USU and the chief of Rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, will serve as the CMIRR’s executive director.  Dr. Brad Isaacson, The Geneva Foundation principal investigator and associate professor in USU’s Department of PM&R, will serve as the director of Research and Operations for CMIRR. 


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About USU

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), founded by an act of Congress in 1972, is the academic heart of the Military Health System. USU students are primarily active-duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Public Health Service who receive specialized education in tropical and infectious diseases, TBI and PTSD, disaster response and humanitarian assistance, global health, and acute trauma care. A large percentage of the university alumni are supporting operations around the world, offering their leadership and experience. USU’s graduate programs in biomedical sciences and public health are committed to excellence in research and oral biology. The university’s research program covers a wide range of clinical and basic science important to both the military and public health.  For more information, visit