Introduction: Stress fractures (SFx) are one of the most common and debilitating overuse injuries seen in military recruits, and they are also problematic for nonmilitary athletic populations. The goal of this randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study was to determine whether a calcium and vitamin D intervention could reduce the incidence of SFx in female recruits during basic training.
Materials and methods: We recruited 5201 female Navy recruit volunteers and randomized them to 2000 mg calcium and 800 IU vitamin D/d or placebo. SFx were ascertained when recruits reported to the Great Lakes clinic with symptoms. All SFx were confirmed with radiography or technetium scan according to the usual Navy protocol.
Results: A total of 309 subjects were diagnosed with a SFx resulting in an incidence of 5.9% per 8 wk. Using intention-to-treat analysis by including all enrolled subjects, we found that the calcium and vitamin D group had a 20% lower incidence of SFx than the control group (5.3% versus 6.6%, respectively, p = 0.0026 for Fisher's exact test). The per protocol analysis, including only the 3700 recruits who completed the study, found a 21% lower incidence of fractures in the supplemented versus the control group (6.8% versus 8.6%, respectively, p = 0.02 for Fisher's exact test).
Conclusions: Generalizing the findings to the population of 14,416 women who entered basic training at the Great Lakes during the 24 mo of recruitment, calcium and vitamin D supplementation for the entire cohort would have prevented approximately 187 persons from fracturing. Such a decrease in SFx would be associated with a significant decrease in morbidity and financial costs.