Tactical Strength and Conditioning (TSAC)
Injury Prevention for Tactical Operators
The purpose of this
month’s TSAC Forum is to share injury concerns and our experiences with injury
The varied and rigorous
physical nature of tactical duties, combined with operations that are often
conducted in harsh environments, predisposes the tactical athlete to injury
risk. Injuries have been cited as the biggest health problem of the military
services. In a 2006 study, there were 743,547 injuries among non-deployed
military services members. To provide some context, for every 1,000 service
members tracked for one year, 628 of them sustained a musculoskeletal injury.
Over 80% of the injuries were considered overuse.
To better control
injuries, a 2008 Department of Defense Injury Prevention Work Group (IPWG) reviewed
the medical literature and presented several recommendations to the military
services. Two recommendations are particularly pertinent for tactical strength
and conditioning professionals: 1) prevent overtraining, and 2) perform
multi-axial, neuromuscular, proprioceptive, and agility training.
Overtraining has been
particularly prevalent in the military, often due to the overuse of distance
running as a means of training endurance. Fortunately, there are several
studies that have shown adequate training of endurance with minimal distance
running. For individuals that want to include distance running in their
program, the following limitations have been shown to reduce injury rates
without compromising fitness: a) limit running to three times per week on
non-consecutive days, and b) limit the duration to 30 minutes.
recommendation from the DOD IPWG (perform multi-axial,
neuromuscular, proprioceptive, and agility training), is essentially telling us to help tactical
athletes move better. I would add that for many individuals in the tactical
professions, an important component of moving better is getting stronger. Some
members of the tactical unit for both movement proficiency and performance.
Identify each individual’s weak links and prescribe corrective training.
warm-up and cool-down sessions to not only serve their usual purpose, but to also
provide an opportunity for addressing movement proficiency.
broadly. If your fitness test battery does not include movement skill and heavy
resistance challenges, don’t assume tactical mobility and strength are adequate.
In fact, you can assume those domains will be undertrained and likely a source
of increased injury risk.
These are just a few suggestions
for addressing the injury problems that concern tactical organizations. What
are your experiences and recommendations?
My deployment was spent working as a medic in a battalion aid station. My background gave me an advantage in addressing musculoskeletal injuries, which made up probably 80% of visits. One injury we could not seem to tackle was lower back pain. I worked with combat arms Soldiers that spent much of their time in full kit training or out on the roads of Iraq.
What advice is out in terms of preventing lower back pain from carrying a heavy load over long periods of time? The average Soldier's kit is pretty heavy, is there even an effective approach to keeping their lower back pain free?
Dr. Mcmillian, great post to start this thread! Thank you!
Matt Tentis, ATC, CSCS
Matt, despite much attention from researchers and trainers, managing
the back pain problem is one of our biggest challenges. When you add a soldier’s
kit and the rough terrain of most deployments, the challenges are even greater.
I don’t pretend to have a solution, but here is what I feel are some best
Hope this helps.