Musculoskeletal injuries caused by acute (sudden) incidents as well as chronic repeated stresses to the body (overuse), have been described as the single biggest health problem of the U.S. military because:
- Almost 50% of military experience 1 or more injury each year.
- They result in over 2,000,000 medical encounters annually across military Services.
- They require 90-120 or more days of restricted work or lost duty time, in addition to the cost of treatment.
- Most are overuse strains, sprains, and stress fractures; most to lower extremities (ankle/foot, knee/lower leg).
- More than half of these injuries are exercise or sports-related, especially running.
- Back and shoulder injuries are also common, more often associated with lifting and carrying activities. Technical references.
Injury: The damage or interruption to normal body tissue function resulting from an energy transfer that exceeds the threshold of tissue tolerance either in a single sudden event (acute trauma) or gradually from repetitive events (cumulative micro-trauma). Cause is too much energy [mechanical, environmental (heat/cold/altitude), poisons (drugs/toxins/chemicals), radiation, or electrical], OR lack of energy (e.g., absence of heat or oxygen) from unintentional (unplanned) or intentional (planned, violence-related) events; animate (human/animal/insect) or inanimate (objects/fires) sources. Injuries do not include genetic, degenerative, mental, and pathogenic disease or conditions. Per A Taxonomy of Injuries for Public Health Monitoring & Reporting.
Injury Causes and Risk Factors
Factors affecting the risk of injury can be associated with the activity, the individual, and the environment.
Not all injuries can be avoided, but many common injuries can be prevented. Reducing injuries is necessary to optimize fitness. Unit leaders should strive to reduce the overall rates at which injuries occur by practicing the following:
- Avoid focusing only on fatalities and severe injuries - more common musculoskeletal overuse injuries such as sprains and stress fractures also cause substantial detriment to readiness.