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NEWS | Aug. 16, 2017

Injured athlete finds passion through treatment

By Airman 1st Class Kaylee Dubois 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joshua jumped up, head butting a soccer ball. As he came back down, an acute pain shot through his leg.

The avid soccer player knew his time as an athlete would be put on hold the moment he fell to the ground.

“I’ve played sports my whole life,” said U.S. Navy Aircrewman 2nd Class Joshua Barrera. “It’s just something I love doing and I was worried if I was going to be able to play again—if I would ever be able to walk again.”

In hopes of getting back to the soccer pitch, Barrera researched treatment options and facilities available to him as a military member in Hampton Roads.

Barrera, who is assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron-28, Norfolk, Va., found that Fort Eustis’ McDonald Army Health Center’s physical therapy office was the best option to treat his ligamentous injuries.

“I came (to McDonald Army Health Center) because they offer unique services that other therapy programs don’t,” said Barrera. “With certain injuries, like (mine), it is dependent on how they reengage all the muscle and tendons again, so the services they offer are great for my situation.”

The MAHC physical therapy office offers a wide range of programs from agility classes to personalized recovery plans. Barrera took advantage of all the programs available. 

Through each treatment he found what he needed to regain his strength—dedication from his rehabilitation support team.

“All the therapist here are incredibly engaging with you as you are going through rehabilitation,” said Barrera. “They push you to make progress throughout, instead of you just encouraging yourself.”

When he first started treatment, Barrera needed assistance to continue his everyday life.

“Little things, like getting a bowl of cereal and bringing it to your room—I couldn’t even do that without help,” said Barrera.

After surgery and six months of mobility training, Barrera was cleared to perform more intense exercises such as squatting and running.

To help him get the most out of his new exercise regiments, U.S. Army Capt. Michael Konetsky, MAHC physical therapy department chief, performed assessments on Barrera.

For instance, during a running analysis, Konetsky recorded a video of Barrera running up and down a hallway to analyze the sailor’s form.

“After looking at his inefficient patterns, we did some corrective exercises,” said Konetsky. “These exercises help him establish a new form of running. When you are dealing with a new skill, the exercises may feel cumbersome or uncomfortable, which is very normal because proper form is something that happens after a long time–not overnight.”

For service members who suffer serious injuries, Barrera recommends, patience and a positive attitude as these helped him throughout his treatment.

“At one point, I was obviously upset that it happened, but then I took it as a positive thing,” said Barrera. “I said to myself, ‘It can only get better from here,’ and it did. It got a lot better. I think if you go in with that mindset of fighting back then your way back becomes more empowering to yourself.”

While on bedrest for his injury, Barrera earned his personal training license and functional fitness license to help prevent other athletes from injuries.

As he works diligently to get back to playing soccer, Barrera is also studying to earn a sports medicine degree to become a physical therapist.

“It’s a way for me to help prevent other people from doing what I did,” said Barrera. “I don’t want anyone to suffer how I did, going through the mental and physical state of an injury, it wears you down. I want to help people going through that and hopefully helping them through their injuries to get them back to what they love.”