2 September 2021

Integrating Gaming to Rehabilitate Service Members with Knee Pain

Researcher to Watch: MAJ Jon Umlauf DPT, DSc, OCS, FAAOMPT

“Advancements in technology can play a significant role in how we manage musculoskeletal injuries,” said Principal Investigator Army Major Jon Umlauf, DPT, DSc, OCS, FAAOMPT.

MAJ (Dr.) Umlauf is a trained physical therapist at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas who is using cutting-edge, simulation-based treatments to return injured military service members to duty. He is advancing the clinical training of orthopedic physical therapists, applying virtual technologies to improve outcomes of rehabilitative care, and investigating the utility of diagnostic ultrasound to improve care for service members.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is knee pain located between the kneecap and the femur. While the exact cause is unclear, it is a treatable condition. It is usually found in young adults and typical with athletes and service members. Clinicians believe the pain comes from overuse and can make it difficult to climb stairs, kneel, and perform other everyday duties. If left untreated, PFPS can not only limit physical activity but also lead to further injuries and drastically reduce readiness.

In a translational research study managed by Geneva, MAJ (Dr.) Umlauf is testing virtual rehabilitation and monitoring via in-home gaming for patients with PFPS. He is using a gaming rehabilitation platform developed by a company specializing in developing video games to make exercise fun and accessible for people with injuries or disabilities called Games That Move You. The company previously developed a personalized game-based exercise called Recovery Rapids to help stroke patients improve their function and quality of life.

“Once the gaming system is developed, the next step is to pilot the system in preparation for clinical implementation and testing,” said MAJ (Dr.) Umlauf. “After the gaming system is refined and local procedures are established, we will be able to assess patients referred for physical therapy at BAMC for improved care.”

MAJ (Dr.) Umlauf is the Physical Therapy Internship Director at BAMC. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists and certified to perform diagnostic musculoskeletal ultrasound (RMSK). He currently practices in one of the largest outpatient physical therapy clinics in the Department of Defense where he is actively involved in teaching entry-level and advanced-practicing physical therapists.

In another Geneva-managed study, MAJ (Dr.) Umlauf is conducting a feasibility study to develop a refined clinical and sonographic evaluation pathway specific for acute ankle sprains using a simulation-based training program on the SonoSim® Ultrasound Training Solution. Part of this project is to develop a simulation-based training program and integrate it into an established classroom training program to create an 8-hour blended learning approach to train physical therapists. Following the 8-hour blended training program, MAJ (Dr.) Umlauf and his team will be able to determine the effectiveness of this training model.

“My overall research goals are to investigate new and innovative means that will further advance operational medicine and improve readiness of the warfighter,“ said MAJ (Dr.) Umlauf. “People are our most precious resource in the military and musculoskeletal injuries significantly impact readiness.”

This research is funded under a Blanket Purchase Agreement with the U.S. Army Contracting Command, Natick Contracting Division which transitioned to the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity.


Disclaimer: The views expressed do not reflect the official policy of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Jon Umlauf