Injuries: the Modern Military Epidemic

By: Active Lifestyle Medical VA

American servicemen and women face serious danger and death as a part of the daily routine. On the front lines or not, there is substantial stress in the job of providing defense for the nation.

Despite the powerful images they leave in our minds, combat injuries are not the most common cause of harm in the armed forces.  In fact, the actual greatest “foe,” is something unexpected as described by Major Vancil McNulty of the US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine.  He says the greatest present threat to the readiness of the armed forces is named “‘injury.’”

The statistics on injured servicemen are quite grim.  The publication cites the injury rate as 2,500 injuries per year per 1,000 soldiers.  In total, 25 million days are lost to limited duty from musculoskeletal injury per year, accounting for 68% of the total days lost.  

According to Major McNulty:

“The top threat to readiness is identified and can no longer remain hidden.”

Active service and veterans need proactive health care that physically addresses injuries and the health of the body, not just pharmaceuticals.

The treatment of injuries via pharmaceuticals and especially the sole reliance on opioids has created a new level of risk in health care, one that also affects members of the military.

A study of injured veterans being treated with opioids assessed the risk of overdose due to treatment.  The study examined the variable of how well the participants were educated on the risks of opioid treatment.  The startling findings showed that the risk of overdose from pain killing medication was not deterred by the level of education about that risk.  Fully 70% felt that they were below average in terms of risk of overdose.  The study authors stated the following:

Our results suggest that veterans in both groups underestimated their risk for opioid overdose.”

Without a doubt, our veterans deserve quality care and a broad range of options, including health care that is holistic, comprehensive, and directly affects the health and strength of the body at the site of injury, and on the whole person as well.  When it comes to health care, veterans deserve the best.

1 https://www.army.mil/article/25626/injuries_the_modern_military_epidemic

2 Wilder CM, Miller SC, Tiffany E, Winhusen T, Winstanley EL, Stein MD. Risk factors for opioid overdose and awareness of overdose risk among veterans prescribed chronic opioids for addiction or pain. J Addict Dis. 2016;35(1):42-51.