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Leading Advocacy Groups Hold Congressional Briefing to Address ‘Silent Enemy’ of Arthritis in the Military

WASHINGTON, DC – The American College of Rheumatology (ACR), alongside representatives from the Arthritis Foundation and American Osteopathic Association, today held a Congressional briefing to educate policymakers about the prevalence of arthritis in the military and to urge Congressional leaders to create a $20 million arthritis program within the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) to aid treatment and prevention efforts.

Arthritis is the top cause of disability among U.S. military veterans and the second leading cause of medical discharge from the U.S. Army. One in three veterans is diagnosed with arthritis, compared to one in five member of the general U.S. population. 

“One of the occupational hazards of military service is that it increases the risk of high-impact injuries that cause joint and tissue damage,” said ACR member Dr. Colin Edgerton, a practicing rheumatologist who is a U.S. Army combat veteran and former Army physician. “Even the wear and tear from non-combat and basic training activities – like carrying a 100-plus pound pack around all day, or jumping from a truck with heavy gear on – can result in injuries that affect you for the rest of your life.”

Edgerton also noted that military culture – which prides toughness and a grin-and-bear-it attitude – makes arthritis prevention, diagnosis and treatment more difficult for service members. “Modifying activity can go a long way in preventing long-term damage, but it is generally frowned upon to slack off on physical activities due to injury. There is a ‘window of opportunity’ for damaged joint tissue to heal on its own, but most service members miss this window due to the nature of the job.”

Despite the prevalence of arthritis in the military, there is currently no dedicated arthritis medical research budget at the Department of Defense to pursue prevention strategies and treatment efforts for this high-risk population.

“The military research ecosystem and patient population provide unique opportunities to conduct clinical trials, test prevention strategies, and explore risk factors associated with arthritis,” said Edgerton. “Pursuing these studies requires a long-term, stable funding source. A dedicated arthritis research program at the Department of Defense would help serve the research needs of the military patient population and could lead to discoveries that benefit all those living with arthritis.”

Erin Schmidt
703-548-0019
eschmidt@schmidtpa.com

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The American College of Rheumatology is an international medical society representing over 9,400 rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals with a mission to Advance Rheumatology! In doing so, the ACR offers education, research, advocacy and practice management support to help its members continue their innovative work and provide quality patient care. Rheumatologists are experts in the diagnosis, management and treatment of more than 100 different types of arthritis and rheumatic diseases. For more information, visit www.rheumatology.org

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