Epidemiological patterns of musculoskeletal injuries and physical training

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The purpose of this study was to identify rates of diagnosis-specific musculoskeletal injuries in U.S. Marine Corps recruits and to examine the association between patterns of physical training and these injuries.


Subjects were 1,296 randomly selected male Marine recruits, ages 17 to 28 yr, who reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego for boot camp training between January 12 and September 14, 1993. Recruits were followed prospectively through 12 wk of training for injury outcomes. Injury patterns were examined in relation to weekly volumes and types of vigorous physical training.


The overall injury rate was 39.6% (number of recruits injured/population at risk), with 82% of injuries occurring in the lower extremities. Overuse injuries accounted for 78% of the diagnoses. The most frequent site of injury was the ankle/foot region (34.3% of injuries), followed by the knee (28.1%). Ankle sprains (6.2%, N = 1,143), iliotibial band syndrome (5.3%, N = 1,143), and stress fractures (4.0%, N = 1,296) were the most common diagnoses. Injury rates were highest during the weeks with high total volumes of vigorous physical training and the most hours of running and marching. Weekly injury rates were significantly correlated with hours of vigorous physical training (overuse injuries r = 0.667, P = 0.018; acute injuries r = 0.633, P = 0.027).


The results of this controlled epidemiological investigation indicate that volume of vigorous physical training may be an etiologic factor for exercise-related injuries. The findings also suggest that type of training, particularly running, and abrupt increases in training volume may further contribute to injury risk.

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