Physical therapy participation and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms among combat veterans

Student: Jamie O’Donoghue*
Mentor: Anna E. Greer
Major: Exercise Science 

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that is common among those who are, and who have served, in the military. This is likely due to overwhelming stressors related to military deployment and combat exposure. Many of these veterans also participate in physical therapy due to injuries incurred while serving in the military. The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a relationship between physical therapy participation and the signs and symptoms of PTSD in combat veterans. Purposive sampling was used to obtain 19 survey respondents. Respondents completed an online questionnaire that measured PTSD and their physical therapy experience. PTSD was measured using the valid and reliable PTSD Checklist- Military (PCL-M), and physical therapy experience was measured using a Physical Therapy Experience Scale for Veterans, adapted from a physical therapy satisfaction scale. The Physical Therapy Experience Scale for Veterans includes two sub-scales measuring both general physical therapy experience and veteran-specific physical therapy experience (Cronbach’s alpha> .80 for both scales indicating a high level of internal consistency). Descriptive statistics were used to describe respondents’ demographic characteristics, PTSD signs and symptoms, and physical therapy experiences. Inferential statistics were used to examine the relationship between respondents’ physical therapy experience scores and PTSD scores. There was no linear relationship between PTSD scores and general physical therapy experience scores (p=.747). There was also no linear relationship between PTSD scores and veteran-specific physical therapy experience scores (p=.969). A Cronbach’s Alpha test was run to test the internal validity consistency of the Physical Therapy Scale for Veterans (α=.871). It does not appear veterans physical therapy experience is related to the PTSD symptoms. Additional research with a larger sample size is needed to confirm the results of the study.

*Honors Senior