Introduction: Injuries are the leading health problem in the military services. Sports and physical training activities are an area in which a substantial number of injuries can occur. Although athletic injuries are not often investigated in military populations, the Armed Forces database provides a unique opportunity to investigate sports injuries.
Methods: An Army database of all hospital admissions for active duty Army personnel in the 1989-1994 period was used to study injuries resulting from sports and Army physical training.
Results: For the 6-year time period reviewed, there were 13,861 hospital admissions for injuries resulting from sports or Army physical training: 94% (13,020) of these admissions were men and 6% (841) were women. The rates of sports injuries were 38 and 18 per 10,000 person-years for men and women, respectively. Sports injuries accounted for an average of 29,435 lost duty days each year: Men lost an average of 13 days per injury and women lost an average of 11 days per injury. Acute musculoskeletal injuries in the categories of fractures, sprains/strains, and dislocations accounted for 82% of all injuries. The knee was the most often injured body area in both genders, with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) identified as the most frequently injured body part overall. The top seven injuries were virtually identical for men and women, with only slight variations in order. Although the rates of all hospitalized sports injuries were higher for men than women, women had a higher proportion of ACL injuries from basketball and softball, ankle fractures from softball and head injuries from basketball. For men, football and basketball contributed to the highest rates of injuries. The highest injury rates for women were from Army physical training and basketball. For both men and women, Army physical training was the leading cause of lumbosacral strains.
Conclusions: Sports and Army physical training injuries account for a significant amount of lost duty time and impact military readiness.