Why today’s ‘Gen Z’ is at risk for boot camp injuries

GREAT LAKES, Ill. (Aug. 19, 2019) Recruits perform a warm-up run during a physical training session inside Freedom Hall at Recruit Training Command. More than 35,000 recruits train annually at the Navy's only boot camp. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Camilo Fernan)
GREAT LAKES, Ill. (Aug. 19, 2019) Recruits perform a warm-up run during a physical training session inside Freedom Hall at Recruit Training Command. More than 35,000 recruits train annually at the Navy's only boot camp. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Camilo Fernan)

Why today’s ‘Gen Z’ is at risk for boot camp injuries

by Claudia Sanchez-Bustamante
MHS Communications

Forr today's generation of 18-to-25-year-olds, making it through recruit training and successfully transitioning from civilian life into the military is not easy.

Today's recruits are coming from a far more sedentary lifestyle compared to previous generations, making their skeletons more prone to injuries because they're not used to the kind of intense activity they will face at basic training.

"The "Nintendo Generation" soldier skeleton is not toughened by activity prior to arrival, so some of them break more easily," said Army Maj. Jon-Marc Thibodeau, a clinical coordinator and chief of the medical readiness service line at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

A few weeks of deliberate fitness preparation before shipping out to boot camp or basic training can greatly increase an incoming recruit's chances of success by avoiding the most common injuries that can delay or derail a recruit's completion of initial military training.

"We see injuries ranging from acute fractures and falls, to tears in the ACL, to muscle strains and stress fractures, with the overwhelming majority of injuries related to overuse," said Army Capt. Lydia Blondin, assistant chief of physical therapy at the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital at Fort Leonard Wood.

These occur mostly in the lower extremities, she said. Statistically, females tend to have higher incidence of injury than their male counterparts, she added.

What can recruits do before getting to training?

To prepare for basic training, Thibodeau recommends new recruits 'get off the couch,' and Blondin recommends they train up. Preparation can include:

  • Start a training program with weight bearing exercises like running, walking, and some weight training.
  • Consider a "Couch-to-5K" running progression program online or something similar to help slowly build into the rigors of basic training, especially if you've never played sports in high school, or if you're older and haven't been super active for a few years, since that makes you significantly more likely to sustain an injury at training.
  • Talk to your recruiter about any train-up opportunities.
  • Make sure you get in that sunshine and drink some milk regularly - Blondin said they commonly see low calcium and vitamin D levels, specifically with bone stress injuries
  • Watching your diet: In general, diet is a huge factor in bone and muscle heath and can significantly affect injury risk and recovery.

For more information to prepare for basic the training, check out this blog from the Human Performance Resources by CHAMP -- the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, in Bethesda, Maryland.

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