"Tip of the spear" physical therapy during a 6-month deployment to the Persian Gulf: a preliminary report

Mil Med. 2001 Jun;166(6):505-9.


When a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier battle group deploys overseas, the ship's medical department is responsible for more than 10,000 personnel and their numerous musculoskeletal injuries. This paper reviews the effectiveness of having a U.S. Navy physical therapist and physical therapy technician onboard the USS Carl Vinson during its most recent deployment to the Persian Gulf. Physical therapy had 3,373 patient visits during the ship's 1998-1999 Western Pacific deployment. Having physical therapy personnel onboard resulted in fewer patient visits to sick call for musculoskeletal problems and fewer evacuations compared with other similar carrier deployments. Providing physical therapy at the "tip of the spear" is an effective, beneficial, and cost-saving landmark improvement in providing quality medical care to the fleet. The lessons learned from this experience will assist in clarifying the role of physical therapy in future military support operations and sustained deployments.

MeSH terms

  • Cost Savings / economics
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel
  • Musculoskeletal System / injuries*
  • Naval Medicine* / economics
  • Physical Therapy Modalities* / economics
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Sports Medicine
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control
  • Wounds and Injuries / rehabilitation