Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

Nordic walking helps injured Soldiers move

Sgt. Jose Cruz, Warrior Transition Battalion and wounded 4th Infantry Division Soldier, tries out the Nordic walking system Aug. 6 at the Soldier Family Assistance Center. WTB Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Bunch spots Cruz and tries the system out himself.

Sgt. Jose Cruz, Warrior Transition Battalion and wounded 4th Infantry Division Soldier, tries out the Nordic walking system Aug. 6 at the Soldier Family Assistance Center. WTB Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Bunch spots Cruz and tries the system out himself.

Story and photo by Douglas M. Rule

Fort Carson Public Affairs Office

Soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion are recovering from all types of injuries and many experience balance problems from leg, back and traumatic brain injuries.

According to Susanne Harland, Fort Carson Station manager, American Red Cross, the Red Cross has a mission to help, as they can, with the recovery of these wounded warriors. She has been involved with helping wounded Soldiers since the Vietnam War era.

“It’s my love, working with the wounded warriors,” she said. Harland said that she is always trying to find new and innovative ways to help the Soldiers.

One way she has been able to help here is to bring in special programs and speakers. One such person was Pete Edwards, founder of American Nordic Walking System. She found out about Edwards through Wade Walrond, who is with the Walter Reed Station of the Red Cross in Washington.

Edwards is a former marathon runner, who injured his knees in a running accident. He is also a running and skiing coach and is certified as a Nordic walking instructor. As part of his recovery, he discovered that Nordic walking, which is much like cross-country skiing without the skis and snow, could help athletes recover from their injuries.

According to Edwards, by using the poles – shorter than Nordic ski poles – for additional balance, the injured person has better control over his or her balance. Additionally, he said, the two poles are better than using a cane or walker, because a cane can cause a person to favor one side or the other, and both have the user hunch over, which may increase problems in recovery and balance. He said that he not only has used them for injured athletes, but has worked with people who have multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Edwards came to the Soldier Family Assistance Center Aug. 6 to lead injured Soldiers in the proper use of the walking poles and to train therapists in using the poles as part of rehabilitation programs. His son, Keefer Edwards, assisted him. They both flew in from Michigan, volunteering their services. Within minutes of using the poles, several of the Soldiers showed a marked improvement in their mobility.

Sgt. Jose Cruz, WTB, said, “It’s really good, better than using the walker. I feel really good.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Bunch, WTB, who spotted Cruz, was impressed. He said that Cruz had had several injuries to his back and legs, and had told Bunch that he hadn’t been able to walk upright since his injuries and surgeries. After several rounds with the poles, Cruz was not only walking upright, but taking significantly larger steps than he had with his walker. Bunch arranged for a set of the poles to be sent to Cruz’s therapists for authorization.

Sgt. 1st Class William Huntington, WTB, has a leg injury, and does walking as part of his therapy. He has tried one pole when walking his dog, but noticed a significant difference using two.

The Red Cross is working with the WTB to have more programs like Nordic walking come in.

“The needs keep changing and if we can find a way to meet those needs, we will facilitate them,” said Harland. She said that in September, a program called iRest, a combination yoga-meditation-relaxation program would start as well as a weekly art-therapy class. Both classes will be taught by local, qualified volunteers.

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