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Assessing Fitness for Military Enlistment: Physical, Medical, and Mental Health Standards
that these programs would reduce the incidence of injury or attrition in basic training is limited.
Recommendation 4-2: Research should be conducted to examine the relationship between physical training programs prior to basic training and the incidence of injury or attrition during basic training, focusing on recruits who would fall below a designated physical fitness standard at the start of basic training.
Conclusion: Although training outcomes are the result of several interrelated factors, preliminary, direct evidence suggests that imposing limited physical demands at entry to military training and increasing physical training demands as fitness levels increase could produce comparable levels of physical fitness to current training regimes, with markedly reduced injury rates. This approach should be considered when redesigning basic training.
Recommendation 4-3: Basic training’s physical and psychological demands should be tailored to broad categories of initial fitness levels and gradually increased over the duration of the training (in accordance with exercise prescription science and injury prevention principles) so that optimal fitness is achieved with minimal risk of musculoskeletal disorders, traumatic injury, and attrition.
Conclusion: The literature supports the notion that, due to biomechanical and physical fitness differences, men and women have different risks of musculoskeletal disorders, traumatic injury, and attrition as a function of basic military training. In addition, these differences can impact the path to optimal fitness. Therefore, male and female training protocols should ideally be tailored differently. Female recruits have lower average levels of physical fitness and conditioning, at the initiation of basic training, than male recruits. However, it is currently unclear whether the higher risk of injury during basic training observed in women is entirely a function of their lower (on average) physical fitness, or whether it is also partly driven by the other numerous musculoskeletal, biomechanical, and neuromuscular differences between women and men. It is therefore unknown whether tailoring the demands of basic training to an individual’s fitness level (as per Recommendation 4-3) will fully address the problem of the higher risks of injury and attrition observed in female recruits.
Recommendation 4-4: Research should be undertaken to address the causes of the increased risk of injury and attrition in women. This research should address differences between men and women in physical fitness and should also address musculoskeletal, biomechanical, and neuromuscular factors.