Athletes Condition Minds, Bodies for 2016 DoD Warrior Games

Many athletes participating in the 2016 DoD Warrior Games at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, have been preparing with physical trainers and acupuncturists behind the scenes to stay in optimal condition to compete.

Rachel Jordan, Walter Reed Warrior Athlete Reconditioning Program manager for the Marine Corps, said she took on a dual role as athletic trainer and team classifier to ensure proper categorization of each athlete’s injury to accurately build teams.

“All our sports are adaptive, so it’s not like we change the athlete to meet the sport — we change the sport to meet the athlete,” Jordan explained. “For any athlete that happens to have an amputation or a spinal cord injury limiting their function, we just deal with what we’ve got and we make it work for them.”

Impressed by Athletes’ Drive

Jordan said she was emotionally moved by the “drive and hustle” of the Marine Corps sitting volleyball team, especially because some of the members had very limited experience in the sport.

“At the end of the day, they’re the Marines,” she said. “I’ve noticed that they overcame with the most limited resources or training they have, [and] a lot of it is attitude. That competitive spirit comes out.”

Jordan also credited a dedicated coaching staff for inspiring the team, despite limited practice time and relatively brief exposure to the sport. “You put a group of Marines together,” she said, “and they’re going to hype themselves up. But definitely [those] who have been playing here longer have taken a leadership role.”

Brandon Dodson is a Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outpatient, a sitting volleyball frontline substitute, and a Warrior Games athlete in other events, including field and swimming. Though he only began playing a few days ago when practice began, he said, he’s already embraced the sport.

Keeping in Shape

Dodson said his daily physical therapy regimen includes walking, stairs and core training, among other exercises.

“For staying athletic, I do a lot of swimming, hand cycling and just being in my prosthetic legs and walking long distances,” he said. Dodson added that an athlete’s mental drive is just as important to success as physical ability.

“The hustle just comes,” he said. “We’re all from that same sort of background in the Marines — we all know what hustle and moving quickly is. So you just put that toward your volleyball performance.”

Dodson also noted that an acupuncturist and massage therapist work with the athletes before and after the competition. The athletes, he added, do their part by staying healthy through hydration and healthy eating.

“If you’re eligible to come to [the] Warrior Games, you definitely should,” Dodson said.

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