PITTSBURGH – A significant proportion of injuries among Special Operations Forces (SOF) in the Army can be classified as preventable and may be mitigated with human performance programs, according to a study.

The study, published recently in Military Medicine, noted that musculoskeletal injuries have long been a problem in general purpose forces. Only anecdotal evidence provided by medical, human performance and training leadership was available about SOF but suggested that musculoskeletal injuries also are a readiness impediment to those soldiers. 1

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the Army Special Operations Command conducted the study to describe the injury epidemiology of SOF using self-reported injury histories.

Data were collected on 106 SOF participants, average age 31.7, for one before the date of laboratory testing and filtered for total injuries and those with the potential to be preventable based on injury type, activity and mechanism.

The frequency of musculoskeletal injuries was found to be 24.5 injuries per 100 subjects per year for total injuries and 18.9 injuries per 100 subjects per year for preventable injuries. The incidence of musculoskeletal injuries was 20.8 injured subjects per 100 subjects per year for total injuries and 16.0 injured subjects per 100 subjects per year for preventable injuries.

Overall, preventable musculoskeletal injuries made up 76.9% of total injuries. Physical training (PT) was the most reported activity for total/preventable injuries, according to the authors, who noted, “Musculoskeletal injuries impede optimal physical readiness/tactical training in the SOF community.”

1 Abt JP, Sell TC, Lovalekar MT, Keenan KA, et al. Injury epidemiology of U.S. Army Special Operations Forces. Mil Med. 2014 Oct;179(10):1106-12. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-14-00078. PubMed PMID: 25269128.