The operating room at Womack Army Medical Center has been busy since Soldiers redeployed from Afghanistan last year.
According to Dr. (Maj.) Stephen Parada, 36, an orthopedic surgeon at WAMC, as of late April, physicians have addressed more than 100 anterior cruciate ligament injuries and more than 80 ankle fractures.
Many of the injuries are training-related or come from Soldiers being actively involved in sports such as soccer, basketball and football, Parada said. But, those injuries could affect a Soldier’s ability to exercise and maintain readiness.
Getting injured can sideline a Soldier for quite some time. An Achilles tear, for instance, can require a six- to eight-month recovery, while ACL restructuring may average nearly nine months recovery time.
What can Soldiers do to prevent injuries?
First, check with a physician before beginning an exercise program, said Dr. Benjamin Ingram, chief, Sports Medicine, WAMC.
As a person ages, cardio-vascular concerns increase, and the patient should make sure he or she is cleared by a physician before starting an exercise routine.
“Make sure the patient is low-risk for exercise,” he explained.
If the patient has been cleared, there are steps that can be taken to decrease the likelihood of injury, such as doing warm-ups to gradually increase a person’s heart rate before beginning a high-intensity exercise such as sprinting, Parada said. Warming up could help avoid injuries such as hamstring and Achilles tendon tears.
Another way to potentially avoid injury is not to exercise to the point of fatigue, Parada said. If a person is lifting weights, for instance, reduce the number of repetitions or the amount of weight lifted to thwart a shoulder dislocation. Muscles are supposed to stabilize the shoulder joint, but overexertion compromises the stabilization system.
“Either do less weight or don’t go to fatigue — don’t knock that support system out,” said Parada.
But, recovery may be the least of concerns for an injured servicemember. In reality, there are some conditions that could cause a servicemember to be medically discharged. Those conditions pertain to muscular skeletal problems such as unstable shoulders, knee pain or lower back pain, explained Parada.
“It’s just hard to stay in the Army with those complaints,” he said.
Some medical conditions can not only end a military career, but could become life threatening.
Rhabdomyolysis, or a break down of muscle cells, can lead to problems such as organ or kidney failure. It usually results from extreme exertion and includes symptoms such as persistent pain, dark-colored urine and muscle weakness.
To avoid rhabdomyolysis, those who exercise should stay hydrated and progress gradually into a workout program.
The best part about treating injuries that do not require a medical board is that Soldiers can expect a complete return to everything they were doing prior to injury, said Parada, a seven-year veteran who has confidence in WAMC as a beacon in Army medicine.
“We feel we have the greatest place in the Army,” he said.