Among the different branches of the military, it is widely acknowledged that members of the United States Marine Corps are the most physically fit. According to the obesity statistics we stated in the first article of this five-part series, members of the U.S. Marines have the lowest obesity rate among all the military branches.
The Marines’ Basic Training requirements and Physical Fitness Test (PFT) standards are more rigorous than the other branches. The amplified physical fitness demands of the Marine Corps are partly due to the nature of their combat tasks. The Marines are usually tasked with paving the way so that larger forces can move in.
Despite the advanced physical condition of the Marine Corps, injuries are also a common occurrence. According to one recent study, “...musculoskeletal injuries cost the U.S. Marine Corps approximately $111 million and 356,000 lost duty days annually.”
Marine injuries, then, do not only occur on the battlefield, but also during basic training and regular training regimens. Below, we take a quick look at some of the most common injuries that affect members of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Injuries During Marine Corps Basic Training
Basic Training, or Marines boot camp, is the first step in discovering if individuals have the required physical stamina, strength, and fitness level to make it in the Marine Corps. During this intense training regiment, around 25 percent of male and 50 percent of female enlisted recruits sustain one or more injuries of varying severity.
A report looking at the rate of injury during basic training found that “the cumulative injury incidence (one or more injuries) was 60.8 percent, and the injury rate was 3.9 per 1,000 candidate hours of training.”
The report went on to find that the injury categories with the highest rates were blisters, sprains, and bone stress reactions.
Like other members of the U.S. military, then, the vast majority of injuries during basic training occur due to overuse without adequate attention to proper form or recovery. Sprains, strains, iliotibial band syndrome, and stress fractures constitute over 40 percent of all injuries.
Injuries For Active Marine Corps Members
Even for Marine Corps members who passed the basic training program without suffering any sort of injury, the threat of long-term musculoskeletal injuries remains. For members of the Marines who were deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014, more than one-third of all injuries were not sustained in battle, but rather occurred due to motor vehicle crashes, falls, operating machinery, or playing sports.
In the long run, members of the Marine Corps also tend to suffer from arthritis. This is directly related to the repetitive physical stress on bones and muscles throughout their military career. Incorporating sports therapy is one strategy that can be used to reduce the frequency and severity of injuries among Marine Corps members.
A recent report from the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) found that “greater fitness levels were associated with lower rates of injury in a large sample of both male and female Marines: 4.6 percent for the least fit, 3.6 percent for the moderately fit, and 2.4 percent for the fittest groups.”
Thus, improving the physical fitness and wellness-awareness of members of the Marines is the best strategy for decreasing the likelihood and severity of the different musculoskeletal injuries mentioned above. While the Marine Corps basic training requirements seek to ensure that Marine Corps personnel are in the top physical shape, engaging the help of other medical professionals can also help to reduce injury vulnerability.
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