Injuries, changes in fitness, and medical demands in deployed National Guard soldiers

Bradley J Warr, Kristin J Heumann, Daniel J Dodd, Pamela D Swan, Brent A Alvar
Military Medicine 2012, 177 (10): 1136-42

PURPOSE: To characterize noncombat injury/illness, determine changes in physical fitness, and evaluate the influence of these changes on medical resource utilization by National Guard (NG) Soldiers.

METHODS: Fifty-four Soldiers from the Arizona NG completed pre- and postdeployment fitness testing. Additionally, individual deployment medical records were inventoried.

RESULTS: The majority of noncombat-related medical visits (41%) were musculoskeletal in nature, followed by miscellaneous (33%) and respiratory (13%). Soldiers experienced significant decreases in percent fat mass (-11.1%, p < 0.001) and VO2 peak (-10.8%, p < 0.001). There were significant increases in push-ups (16.4%, p < 0.001), sit-ups (11.0%, p = 0.001), bench-press (10.2%, p < 0.001), and back squat (14.2%, p < 0.001) measures. VO2 peak was inversely correlated to medical resource utilization (r = -0.45 to -0.28, p < or = 0.05). The tertile of Soldiers experiencing the sharpest declines in VO2 peak had significantly more medical visits over the course of the deployment than the other two tertiles (8.0 vs. 2.6 vs. 3.1 medical visits/Soldier, p < or = 0.05).

CONCLUSION: The predominate noncombat medical issue was musculoskeletal injury. NG Soldiers improved their body composition, strength, and endurance but experienced significant declines in aerobic fitness while deployed. These data document the association between declining aerobic fitness and increased utilization of medical resources.

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