A high incidence of musculoskeletal injuries is sustained by army recruits during basic training. Describing recruits’ personal, lifestyle, and physical performance characteristics at the entry to training can help identify existing intrinsic risk factors that may predispose some recruits to injury. Identifying modifiable and preventable intrinsic risk factors may contribute to lower recruit injury and associated burdens during the course of basic training. The aim of this study was to therefore describe the profile of New Zealand Army recruits upon entry to basic training using personal, lifestyle, and physical performance characteristics.
New Zealand Army male and female recruits from two intakes in the same year were invited to participate. Recruits’ data on personal (sex, age, height, and weight), lifestyle (self-reported responses to the Military Pre-training Questionnaire comprising physical and injury history, diet, alcohol, and smoking status) and physical performance characteristics (2.4-km timed run, weight-bearing dorsiflexion lunge test, and the Y Balance TestTM for lower limb dynamic stability) were collected and analyzed.
Participants included 248 New Zealand Army recruits: 228 males (91.9%), 20 females (8.1%), average age of 20.3 ± 2.8 years. Findings indicated 30.9% of recruits reported injury in the 12 months prior to training commencing, with 44.8% of those injuries in the lower limbs. Pre-entry alcohol consumption was higher than recommended and 20.1% of recruits identified as current smokers. Recruits who passed the 2.4-km timed run included 53.8% of males and 28.6% of females. Weight-bearing dorsiflexion lunge test performance was within a normal range (right = 10.3 ± 3.3 cm), however limb asymmetry (>1.5 cm) was present with 30.9% of recruits. For the Y Balance TestTM for dynamic lower limb stability, 70% of female recruits had high posterolateral reach asymmetry (8.1 ± 6.0 cm), while normalized composite reach scores were low (right) for male (92.2 ± 8.1%) and female recruits (89.0 ± 7.5%).
New Zealand Army recruits entering basic training were predominantly active young males, reported few injuries in the previous year, had higher than recommended alcohol consumption and a minority were smokers. The majority of recruits had low aerobic fitness, average ankle dorsiflexion range, and low dynamic lower limb stability. While a number of adverse characteristics identified are potentially modifiable, more research is required to identify an association to musculoskeletal injury risk in New Zealand Army recruits. Describing the profile of recruits entering training, particularly recruits at risk of injury is one of the first steps in injury prevention.