Preventing non-combat injuries is a must!
Non-combat injuries, especially musculoskeletal (MSK) types (i.e., injuries to bones, joints, and muscles), are plaguing the military and causing troops to leave theater early and become non-deployable. These injuries can range from back pain to torn ligaments of the knee and ankle. They are the most common injuries during deployment and during basic training, in addition to being the number one cause of lost duty days in the U.S. military. Not only do injuries cause a reduction in manpower, but they also decrease camaraderie and unit cohesion. Researchers and commanders are looking for solutions to prevent injuries and keep service members healthy and on active duty.
One proposed idea is to use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), a type of injury risk assessment that uses a grading system to evaluate an individual’s movement patterns. The FMS score from the five tests that are used in the screen reflects an individual’s muscle strength, flexibility, range of motion, balance, coordination, and proprioception. In one study using professional football players, FMS scores did relate to injury rates during the following season. In another study, athletes who had low FMS scores were assigned to a training program to improve FMS scores and hopefully decrease risk of injury. This same screening and training process is currently being studied to prevent injuries in troops who are training and preparing to deploy. The hope is that, in the future, trained personnel will be able to use targeted musculoskeletal training programs like FMS to allow service men and women to jump, land, and move more efficiently and decrease injury rates.
Another proposed solution the U.S. Army has developed for MSK injury prevention is Musculoskeletal Action Teams (MATs). MATs consist of physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, and athletic trainers who provide Initial Entry Training (IET) to recruits. MATs promote injury prevention and human performance optimization through health assessments, resiliency training, and adaptive interventions. Also, the Army has revamped their Physical Readiness Training (PRT) to focus on functional performance by optimizing strength, mobility, and endurance for sustained activities and to decrease the incidence of MSKs.
Research has also begun to focus on the direct effects of body armor on the individual wearing it. Once it is known how body armor and other equipment affect movement patterns of the body, preventing possible injuries related to wearing body armor will become easier.