Is Distance Travelled by Military Recruits during Basic Training a Significant Risk Factor for Lower Limb Overuse Injury?

Research Paper Title

Distance travelled by military recruits during basic training is a significant risk factor for lower limb overuse injury.

Background

Military initial training results in a high incidence of lower limb overuse injuries (stress fractures and medial tibial stress syndrome). This study aimed to determine whether the distance travelled by recruits, both on and off duty, was a risk factor for overuse injury.

Methods

14 male airborne infantry recruits from three training platoons carried global positioning system receivers throughout the first 19 weeks of basic military training. Total distance travelled each day was recorded. This was compared with time of clinical manifestation of 52 lower limb overuse injuries (stress fractures and medial tibial stress syndrome) collected from the 276 airborne infantry recruits in the period immediately preceding the study.

Results

Recruits travelled significantly farther than the UK average male population in 17 of 18 measured weeks. Pearson correlation between distance travelled per week and injuries was not significant (p=0.4448); however, correlation between distance travelled per week and injuries two weeks later was significant (p=0.0263). A generalised linear model found distance travelled as a significant covariate (p=0.0144) to the expected number of injuries two weeks later.

Conclusion

Recruits travel long distances during basic training, particularly in the first few weeks when they are not yet conditioned. This distance travelled is likely a contributing risk factor to the high incidence of overuse injuries seen during training, and strategies to reduce this distance should be explored.

Reference

Whittle, R.S. (2020) Distance travelled by military recruits during basic training is a significant risk factor for lower limb overuse injury. BMJ Military Health. doi: 10.1136/bmjmilitary-2020-001445. Online ahead of print.

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