MMA for PTSD? NJ Group Finds a Kick-A** Way to Help Veterans
All too often, American soldiers are returning from deployments to the Middle East with post-traumatic stress disorder, but cannot find adequate help for dealing with this condition. One New Jersey nonprofit is trying an alternative approach to healing, and for many veterans, it seems to be working.
Dan Kraemer started Somerville-based Project Chaos MMA for Heroes (MMA stands for mixed martial arts) in 2014, when he was discharged from the Air Force after being wounded in Afghanistan.
The organization assists New Jersey combat veterans who are suffering with PTSD after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and combines Kraemer's lifelong love of boxing with a desire to recreate the brotherhood -- he emphasized it's a sisterhood as well -- forged by those who have served.
"A lot of us, when we are discharged and we leave the military, we lose that brotherhood, that camaraderie," he said. "We also lose that warrior spirit that a lot of us have during combat."
The organization partners with several gyms in the greater Somerset County area, but its services are available, for free, to any veteran in need of help across the state. In fact, Kraemer said, he is contacted every day by a new gym that wants to get involved.
And even participants with no previous background or interest in so-called "combat sports," or the training involved with them, have responded positively to their experience with Project Chaos.
"It's a really cool, positive hobby, I guess you could call it, that they're getting into," Kraemer said. "It's better than, you know, a lot of vets come home and you find them just sitting at the bar for hours on end."
Kraemer said funding for Project Chaos comes completely from the generous donations of both individuals and corporations, because at this time, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize regimented strength training as a way for veterans with PTSD to get better.
"Veterans Affairs still doesn't even recognize a service dog as therapeutic to the veteran," he said, however adding that the marriage of intense physical activity with other, sanctioned therapies is proving to be an effective combination. "It's a healthy release, on top of what veterans are already getting from the VA to supplement their recovery in this road that is PTSD."
If you or someone you know could benefit from combat sports training to help manage the symptoms of PTSD, visit ProjectChaosMMA.com for more information about Kraemer's organization.