Army researchers are launching a study to determine why recruits sustain career-ending injuries, and how to prevent them from happening. The Physical Demands Study, conducted by the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine at Natick, Mass., is working with the Training and Doctrine Command Center for Initial Military Training. The collaboration entails collecting data over a four-year period on the bones and muscles of some 4,000 recruits as they undergo basic combat training. The data will be used to develop recommendations that would reduce the number of injuries without compromising training standards. The Army launched the study because of the high number of stress fractures and injuries to the musculoskeletal system, which has burdened the service in both lost duty time and money.
“Musculoskeletal injuries are a real problem for the Army, especially for recruits,” said Dr. Julie Hughes, a research physiologist who is part of team’s leadership cadre. “We realized that if we want to understand what factors contribute to musculoskeletal injuries and the physiology behind the risk, we needed a comprehensive effort with a large sample size.”
Ultimately, the researchers want to come up with a plan to train recruits in a manner that promotes co-development of both muscles and bones. Often, muscular fatigue is a major factor in broken bones.
Initial research took place at the recruit depot at Fort Jackson, S.C. Plans call for expansion to Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Sill, Okla., and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
The study will continue to involve the use of sophisticated equipment such as bone scanners that can provide images in detail smaller than a hair strand.
Recruits also would provide urine and blood samples, and take part in surveys that address sleeping habits, what they eat, where they come from, medical histories and past injuries.
Once soldiers leave basic combat training, researchers would continue to follow their health status, “to see who gets hurt and who does not,” said Dr. Stephen Foulis, who works with Hughes on the research team. “We want to see how those first few weeks of training in the Army affect the first few years of a soldier’s career.”