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

Abstract

Introduction 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.

  • musculoskeletal disorders
  • sports medicine
  • preventive medicine
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