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Prevention of Physical Training–Related Injuries

Recommendations for the Military and Other Active Populations Based on Expedited Systematic Reviews

      Background

      The Military Training Task Force of the Defense Safety Oversight Council chartered a Joint Services Physical Training Injury Prevention Working Group to: (1) establish the evidence base for making recommendations to prevent injuries; (2) prioritize the recommendations for prevention programs and policies; and (3) substantiate the need for further research and evaluation on interventions and programs likely to reduce physical training–related injuries.

      Evidence acquisition

      A work group was formed to identify, evaluate, and assess the level of scientific evidence for various physical training–related injury prevention strategies through an expedited systematic review process. Of 40 physical training–related injury prevention strategies identified, education, leader support, and surveillance were determined to be essential elements of a successful injury prevention program and not independent interventions. As a result of the expedited systematic reviews, one more essential element (research) was added for a total of four. Six strategies were not reviewed. The remaining 31 interventions were categorized into three levels representing the strength of recommendation: (1) recommended; (2) not recommended; and (3) insufficient evidence to recommend or not recommend.

      Evidence synthesis

      Education, leadership support, injury surveillance, and research were determined to be critical components of any successful injury prevention program. Six interventions (i.e., prevent overtraining, agility-like training, mouthguards, semirigid ankle braces, nutrient replacement, and synthetic socks) had strong enough evidence to become working group recommendations for implementation in the military services. Two interventions (i.e., back braces and pre-exercise administration of anti-inflammatory medication) were not recommended due to evidence of ineffectiveness or harm, 23 lacked sufficient scientific evidence to support recommendations for all military services at this time, and six were not evaluated.

      Conclusions

      Six interventions should be implemented in all four military services immediately to reduce physical training–related injuries. Two strategies should be discouraged by all leaders at all levels. Of particular note, 23 popular physical training–related injury prevention strategies need further scientific investigation, review, and group consensus before they can be recommended to the military services or similar civilian populations. The expedited systematic process of evaluating interventions enabled the working group to build consensus around those injury prevention strategies that had enough scientific evidence to support a recommendation.
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