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Army recruits are out of shape, injuries costing millions, study says

Officer Candidate Glenn Halm of the Macon-based Officer Readiness Program, grinds to complete the push-up portion of the Army Physical Fitness Test at the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Headquarters on April 27, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Tori Miller)
April 17, 2023

A recent study found that Army recruits are entering the service in increasingly poor physical condition, costing the service millions in medical care as the military faces a general recruiting crisis.

An increasing rate of Army recruits not fit for service is leading to a high rate of injuries during their initial training, according to a study in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, Military Times reported.

The study found that nearly 35 percent of Army recruits in initial training suffered at least one musculoskeletal injury during exercises in fiscal year 2017. About 62 percent of the female trainees suffered one of those injuries, compared with 32 percent of males.

The study estimated that the Army spent $14.8 million on treatment for musculoskeletal injuries, with $7.2 million – nearly half – going to recruits from eight southern states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

The study comes as the military faces a recruiting crisis, with the Army and Navy missing goals for new recruits in 2022 and other branches barely clawing their way out of shortfalls. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall recently said the Air Force would likely miss its goals this year.

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The study showed a disparity in trainee injuries by home region: eight of 10 states with the most trainee injuries were in the South. The study said that recruits from southern states “are less physically fit and more likely to sustain [musculoskeletal injuries] during initial military training,” Military Times reported.

Defense Department data shows that in 2013, 44 percent of all military recruits came from the South, Insider reported.

“The military, and the Army especially, has its best chance of recruiting somebody in the southern states, they call it the ‘Southern Crescent,'” Thomas Spoehr, director for the Center for National Defense for the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News.

He said the study’s findings highlight that recruits’ “propensity or willingness or desire to serve isn’t necessarily equated to the physical fitness level that people come in with.”