Introduction: Physical training for United States military personnel requires a combination of injury prevention and performance optimization to counter unintentional musculoskeletal injuries and maximize warrior capabilities. Determining the most effective activities and tasks to meet these goals requires a systematic, research-based approach that is population specific based on the tasks and demands of the warrior.
Objective: We have modified the traditional approach to injury prevention to implement a comprehensive injury prevention and performance optimization research program with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell, KY. This is Part I of two papers that presents the research conducted during the first three steps of the program and includes Injury Surveillance, Task and Demand Analysis, and Predictors of Injury and Optimal Performance.
Methods: Injury surveillance based on a self-report of injuries was collected on all Soldiers participating in the study. Field-based analyses of the tasks and demands of Soldiers performing typical tasks of 101st Soldiers were performed to develop 101st-specific laboratory testing and to assist with the design of the intervention (Eagle Tactical Athlete Program (ETAP)). Laboratory testing of musculoskeletal, biomechanical, physiological, and nutritional characteristics was performed on Soldiers and benchmarked to triathletes to determine predictors of injury and optimal performance and to assist with the design of ETAP.
Results: Injury surveillance demonstrated that Soldiers of the 101st are at risk for a wide range of preventable unintentional musculoskeletal injuries during physical training, tactical training, and recreational/sports activities. The field-based analyses provided quantitative data and qualitative information essential to guiding 101st specific laboratory testing and intervention design. Overall the laboratory testing revealed that Soldiers of the 101st would benefit from targeted physical training to meet the specific demands of their job and that sub-groups of Soldiers would benefit from targeted injury prevention activities.
Conclusions: The first three steps of the injury prevention and performance research program revealed that Soldiers of the 101st suffer preventable musculoskeletal injuries, have unique physical demands, and would benefit from targeted training to improve performance and prevent injury.