Those who choose to serve in the United States military continue a proud tradition of defending our nation against external threats and preserving the freedom upon which our country was founded. If you go to any sporting event around our great nation you will see thousands cheering for our current and veteran military members. The love and support is an incredible sight to see and one that always makes ordinary citizens proud to be Americans.
Before anyone can become a full-fledged member of the military, they are required to complete a basic training program or “boot camp” as it is commonly called. This is a requirement across all five U.S. military branches - The Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, & Coast Guard. This basic training varies by branch but lasts anywhere between 8-12 weeks. Both physically and mentally demanding, “boot camp” ensures cadets are battle-ready. However, this strenuous training comes with a high risk of injury. Reports estimate that an average of 60% of women and 27% of men are injured during basic training. This article explores one of the most common basic training injury types, and offers strategies for new cadets to help avoid them.
What are Overuse Injuries?
Strenuous physical activity over extended periods of time breaks down the body, no matter what fitness level the cadet is in at the time of basic training. Overuse injuries are defined as "any type of muscle or joint injury, such as tendinitis or a stress fracture, that's caused by repetitive trauma." Common types of overuse injuries include Achilles tendinitis, runner's knee, and stress fractures.
Overuse injuries are not acute in nature, meaning they are not from a single, traumatic event such as a fractured arm or concussion. These injuries develop overtime and are harder to identify, which makes diagnosing and treating them more challenging. The best way to avoid boot camp overuse injuries is to prepare the body to deal with immense physical stress for varying durations of time, from short sprints to ruck marches.
Overuse Injury Prevention Tips for New Cadets
Intense physical activities over varying duration can take a toll on the body. Therefore preparation is imperative for new cadets and is the best way to avoid injuries and make it across the finish line. Let's look at a few strategies for boot camp success so young cadets are ready to proudly serve our nation.
Build a Foundation
A solid fitness foundation makes the high performers stand out when basic training begins. Of course, injuries can affect anyone regardless of fitness level, but those who prepare their bodies and minds in advance have a decreased chance of succumbing to injury. Therefore, new cadets should begin a gradual workout program months (not weeks) before they deploy. Running, body weight strength training and agility drills should be a core of any fitness foundation. This will help prepare the body for those obstacle courses, rope climbs, and long marches through different environments. The stronger the foundation, the less chance of developing an overuse or musculoskeletal injury (MSI), helping cadets become battle ready in no time.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice makes perfect. Cadets are less likely to suffer an overuse or MSI if their bodies are conditioned to take on what they will be facing in basic training. “Googling” has made it easier than ever to find a treasure trove of information on each military branch’s specific basic training program. From discussion forums to military websites, new cadets can reference this information and prepare ahead of time. Be sure to ask the recruiter for workout strategies to help prepare for basic training.
New recruits should plan to follow a workout regimen that builds up to what the body will face in basic training. This mental and physical pre-conditioning will provide an edge and can prevent injuries lurking in those obstacle courses and muddy terrain. A good example is preparing for road marching or "ruck marches" as they are often called. These are long marches (ten plus miles) while carrying an average of 45 pounds or more. Developing a ruck march endurance program that gradually increases distance and weight carried will help condition the body to to prepare for the real thing!
Boot camp injuries disrupt operations, slow personal progress and increase attrition rates across all branches. While acute injuries can take any cadet out of training, overuse injuries are more complex yet largely preventable with proper preparation. The strength and endurance work a cadet puts in before basic training will pay off through increased training performance and mental confidence. They will be ready to take on any challenge. Warriors are created during boot camp! Stay safe out there and thank you for your service.
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