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WASHINGTON - Soldiers should be aware of overuse and overtraining that can lead to injury, and should modify their fitness plans accordingly, an Army doctor said.
"In terms of physical training-related injuries, the first and most important thing is that injuries are the biggest health problem of the Army," said Dr. Bruce Jones, a U.S. Army Public Health Command physician-epidemiologist.
Jones spoke at a media roundtable held in conjunction with the 3rd International Congress on Soldier Physical Performance, which was held in Boston Aug. 18-21, and looked at ways to enhance Soldier performance while reducing instances of injury.
Jones said each year some 350,000 Soldiers make about 1.3 million medical visits for injuries.
"Fifty percent of those 1.3 million visits are due to overuse training-related injuries," he said.
He said research indicates that in both the military and civilian populations, the more physical training a person does, especially running, the higher the risk of injury.
It is a paradox, he said, since if you want to become physically fit, you have to train, which then increases your risk of injury.
TRAIN, BUT DON'T OVERDO IT
"Civilian studies and some of ours suggest that there are thresholds of training above which injuries rates will go up, but fitness will either not improve or it will go down," he said.
Jones said strategies to prevent overtraining and injury have been successful. For example, he said, a standardized program for basic training in 2003 reduced running mileage, and encapsulated speed work and multidirectional activities like guerrilla drills and grass drills.
"We were able to demonstrate a 40-percent reduction in injury rates doing that," he said.
Jones said women tend to enter the service with lower levels of fitness and have higher injury rates in basic training as compared to men.
However, that does not mean women cannot perform at high levels, Jones said. "There are some women who can compete and are functioning at the same level of performance as the highest 20 to 25 percent of men," he said.