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Poor fitness among recruits is costing the Army millions, study says


Soldiers conduct a sunrise run at Fort Stewart, Georgia. A recent study found U.S. Army recruits are increasingly out of shape. (Capt. William Carraway/Army)

A new study in a journal that focuses on cardiovascular diseases found that U.S. Army recruits are more out of shape than ever, and the U.S. military is spending millions as a result.

The research article, featured in the Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases journal, analyzed the increasing prevalence of lackluster physical fitness among Army trainees and the surge of musculoskeletal injuries found to correspond with that trend.

Results were taken from rosters of Army recruits entering basic training during fiscal year 2017. Of a total of 99,335 trainees, just under 35% — 33,509 — sustained at least one musculoskeletal injury.

Musculoskeletal injuries among the sample pool were especially pronounced among women. Of the 19,262 female trainees in the pool, approximately 62% suffered from at least one such injury. That alarming number was in stark contrast to the 32% of male trainees reporting musculoskeletal complications.

What’s more, medical costs associated with treating musculoskeletal injuries among Army trainees totaled more than $14.8 million.

The study broke down injury prevalence further according to the home states of recruits. Of the 10 worst performing states, eight were in the South. New York and Rhode Island joined Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and North Carolina as states with the highest percentage of injuries reported.

As a result, the South represented the costliest region in the U.S., totaling nearly $7.2 million in medical expenses to treat trainees — or, approximately 50% of the total cost nationwide.

“[R]ecruits coming from Southern states are less physically fit and more likely to sustain [musculoskeletal injuries] during initial military training,” the study’s authors wrote.

Along with the study results, that data “further demonstrate that improving [physical activity and physical fitness] among young Americans residing in Southern states specifically, and the nation overall, is of critical importance for national security,” they added.

The research was conducted with the help of various institutions, including Washington and Lee University, the U.S. Army Public Health Center, the American Heart Association, the University of South Carolina, DBornsteinSolutions and The Citadel.

Real the full report here.

Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.

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