WASHINGTON, DC -- To help enhance amputee and patient care of disabled and injured veterans, Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) recently opened the Military Advanced Training Center (MATC). The 31,000-square-foot facility includes numerous advanced physical therapy and fitness-related features.

The MATC includes a rope-climb and rock wall, uneven terrain and incline parallel bars, vehicular simulators, a firearms-training simulator, physical therapy athletic and exercise areas, and an occupational therapy clinic. The facility also has prosthetic-training and skill-training areas, prosthetic-adjustment and fitting rooms, and separate exam rooms for all amputee-related care.

The center’s 225-foot indoor track boasts the world’s first oval support harness, which allows veterans to walk or run without a therapist tethered to them. Patients recover more quickly with the harness because the therapist is free to provide immediate feedback to the patient while observing their gait, says Charles Scoville, WRAMC’s chief of amputee service.

To further measure patients’ strides, the MATC’s Center for Performance and Clinical Research, known as the gait lab, contains six calibrated force plates, four for walking and two for running. It also includes a dual force-plate treadmill that can conduct running analysis for prolonged activity. The system includes 23 infrared cameras that are mounted around the room to gather information that helps ensure proper prosthetic fit and alignment, and appropriate foot or knee selection for amputees, Scoville says.

The MATC also includes the Computer Assisted Rehab Environment (CAREN), which builds a virtual environment around a patient performing tasks on a treadmill that is bolted to a helicopter simulator. The CAREN uses a video-capture system, similar to the gait lab, but with an interactive platform that responds to patients’ movement.

The CAREN can also assist veterans recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder by reintroducing patients to both simple and complex environments and measuring their performance while ensuring absolute safety.

“We can continually add stressors,” Scoville says. “We can start with the patient walking on an empty street and gradually add parked cars, traffic, pedestrians and noise. We’ll take the patient to the edge of discomfort but not beyond what they can handle.”

The new facility houses more than 15 specialists, including physicians, nurse case managers, therapists, psychologists, social workers, benefits counselors and representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The building is designed to bring together the multidisciplinary team that cares for veterans in transition, Scoville says.