Reducing Musculoskeletal injuries in SF soldiers

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WillBrink

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Reducing Musculoskeletal injuries in SF soldiers
By Will Brink

A fairly recent article in the Journal of Special Operations Medicine (JSOM)* examined the Musculoskeletal injuries from 5th group.

The authors decided to quantify the rates and types of these injuries in SF using the records from 5th group, “who treated numerous middle-aged team sergeants with shoulder, back, and knee overuse injuries”

The authors noted “Special Forces, and Ranger units are about 10 to 12 injuries per 100 Soldier-months, which is comparable to collegiate endurance athletes. Of all the types of units studied, Special Forces has the highest incidence of injury rate at 12.1 per 100 Soldier-months.”

This study revealed that physical training caused 50% of all injuries, and 30% were linked to running. Injuries resulted in 10-times the number of profile days (lost work days) as illnesses with the leading reason for outpatient visits in our Group was for musculoskeletal disorders.

The locations of affected musculoskeletal conditions in descending order include: back/neck (31%), ankle (10%), shoulder (10%), and knee (10%).

The authors found that “…over 40% of all clinical diagnoses in the 5th Group Clinic were for musculoskeletal problems.” This translated into injured members of 5th group being put on “light duty” an average of 20 to 30 days each which has “significant” operational impact on the unit.

It was interesting to note that in other army units studied, musculoskeletal injuries are more common in the lower extremities (e.g., knees and ankles) but in SF, upper extremity injuries (e.g., lower back, upper back, shoulders, etc) are more common. The authors theorized “This may be due to the slightly older average age of our Soldiers versus conventional units, in addition to the cumulative effect of repetitive micro trauma from airborne operations, combatives training, wearing heavy body armor, and carrying heavy loads.”

This article covered a bunch of additional info about injury rates and other details interested parties (trainers, docs, etc) can look up the full article for additional details there. Of most interest to me, was their comments on prevention:

“Finally to focus more on prevention, Special Forces Groups should modify unit physical training programs to incorporate the fitness and performance fundamentals used in today’s top athletic programs. Military researchers have shown that modified physical training programs can result in lower injury rates with improvements in physical fitness. Training regimens that emphasize core strength and cross-training would likely increase physical readiness while decreasing the incidence of spine and lower extremity injuries.”

I agree with all of the above. As mentioned, training hard and training smart, are not always the same thing. The latter leading to greater performance and reduced injury rates, with improved operational readiness and (potentially) greater operational longevity for the SF soldier. The top coaches involved in “today’s top athletic programs” follow similar guidelines I mentioned regarding programs that follow a wave form pattern vs. a linear pattern I had mentioned in other blog posts here.

I’m happy to see the medical and training community within the SOF community is starting to see the benefits in both performance -and reduced rates of injuries - following more modern concepts in training already being utilized by the top athletic programs and or coaches in the field. The authors finished their report by summing it up nicely:

“By making these changes to training and resourcing, Special Forces Groups will be investing in our most lethal weapon—the individual Special Forces Soldier.”

* Clinical Diagnoses in a Special Forces Group: The Musculoskeletal Burden
James H. Lynch, MD, MS and Mark P. Pallis, DO, FAAOS. Journal of Special Operations Medicine (JSOM): Volume 8, Edition 2 / Spring 2008, 76-79
 
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8'Duece

Guest
I'm out of my depth since I am not nor ever have been a Special Forces Soldier but even at the age of 23 I had already had two surgerys on my left shoulder due to Airborne ops, humping, climbing, rappelling etc.

I can't imagine being 35-40 years of age and being able to still do the stuff that I did with an Airborne unit, let alone a Special Forces Soldier.

Gotta hand it to the SF guys. If I'm not mistaken the average age of an SF Soldier is around 36 years of age. (correct me if I'm wrong there may be different stats now)

Better men than me.
 

Rabid Badger

Special Forces
Verified SOF
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May 20, 2007
Messages
3,173
Location
The 'Ville
I read this article by the authors as their opinion for a smarter PT program IN COORDIANTION WITH Crossfit and other variations of cardio linked to a reduced rate in injuries.

I don't have to be a Special Forces soldier to recognize the possibilities in that opinion...or even recognize the fact that several doctors have formed an opinion and published a paper with their ASSUMPTIONS with their studies.

Running with that opinion thought, everyone here is entitled to their opinion and needn't be bashed for posting it.

A re-written opinionated article posted on a follow-on website CANNOT be included as 'the source'. The source is the person who wrote the article in the first place.

Re-opened. Keep it civil.

:2c:
 
W

WillBrink

Guest
I read this article by the authors as their opinion for a smarter PT program IN COORDIANTION WITH Crossfit and other variations of cardio linked to a reduced rate in injuries.

I don't have to be a Special Forces soldier to recognize the possibilities in that opinion...or even recognize the fact that several doctors have formed an opinion and published a paper with their ASSUMPTIONS with their studies.

Running with that opinion thought, everyone here is entitled to their opinion and needn't be bashed for posting it.

A re-written opinionated article posted on a follow-on website CANNOT be included as 'the source'. The source is the person who wrote the article in the first place.

Re-opened. Keep it civil.

:2c:

If anyone is interested in the page for the source doc to read it, it can be downloaded here:

https://jsoupublic.socom.mil/publications/#jsom

Use citation above to find journal.
 

JBS

Leatherneck
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Aug 14, 2007
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USA
LOL, why do so many .mil sites have invalid security certificates?
 

judomedic

Unverified
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
8
I read this article by the authors as their opinion for a smarter PT program IN COORDIANTION WITH Crossfit and other variations of cardio linked to a reduced rate in injuries.

I don't have to be a Special Forces soldier to recognize the possibilities in that opinion...or even recognize the fact that several doctors have formed an opinion and published a paper with their ASSUMPTIONS with their studies.

Running with that opinion thought, everyone here is entitled to their opinion and needn't be bashed for posting it.

A re-written opinionated article posted on a follow-on website CANNOT be included as 'the source'. The source is the person who wrote the article in the first place.

Re-opened. Keep it civil.

:2c:


I agree. Although I have never been SF or military. Many of the civilian fire service and SAR groups are going to CF. I use CF and Gym Jones training methods. The MMA gym I train at has a lot of fire fighters and police officers training in CF as well as number of military reservists USMC and USAR.

I ran CC in HS and did endurance races for 10 years (Tulsa Run, Willow Lake sprint triathlon, etc.). I have to say doing HIIT/Tabata/ CF, my cardio has never been higher. Vo2Max is 68 ml/kg at 36, up from 65ml/kg at 28. And I have far fewer injuries and don't log nearly as many miles on my dynamic corpse.

Perhaps a CF style program with intermittent endurance runs and road marches would reduce injury rates.
 
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