Injury prevention for active retired service members

  • Published
  • By Joseph Ronie Pioquinto
  • 78th Medical Group Physical Therapy Department
In 2014, the United States Census reported a total population of 318.9 million people, and less than 10 percent of these have served or are serving in the military. The breakdown for this is as follows: The Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that there are about 22 million military veterans in the U.S. Add this figure to active duty service members of about 1.4 million, and that is about 7.3 percent of the U.S. population who have served in the military. 

This small percentage of the population went through rigorous medical and physical tests to validate eligibility to serve in the noble profession of arms. The demands of military duties or multiple deployments are then felt afterward in varying levels. After serving their country, these retirees embark on active lifestyles. It is common to see these retirees running ultramarathons, participating in triathlons, playing golf, and engaging in other sports, which they may have started while serving in the military. 

Overuse injuries and age-related physiological changes limit the majority of the older population from participating in sports or exercise training. The American College Sports Medicine stated however, that exercise training might offset age-related changes. How could these active retirees prevent injuries? Older adults can prevent sports-related or training injuries by consulting their primary care provider first for medical clearance prior to vigorous activities, gradual rate of progression of physical conditioning, proper nutrition, and adherence to the principles of FITT - frequency, intensity, time - or duration, and type of activities per ACSM.

It is important to establish meaningful, measurable and achievable physical conditioning goals before beginning training sessions. Proper motivation, knowledge, and dedication to achieve results will be the driving forces towards health improvements. Moreover, continued honest reevaluations of progress or failures towards training goals are equally important. 

It is good to follow the workout recommendations from ACSM. Accordingly, it is vital to incorporate five to ten minutes of warm-ups; twenty to sixty minutes of cardiorespiratory, flexibility, resistance trainings; alternative recreation activities such as playing golf; and five to ten minutes of cool downs. 

Cardiorespiratory, flexibility, and resistance training are components of comprehensive physical conditioning and health improvement workouts. A complete workout will include strength or resistance training such as weightlifting, cardiorespiratory or endurance training such as jogging, flexibility training such as stretching routines, and intersperse with relaxing sports to break the monotony of training. 

Tai Chi is one form of effective flexibility training as a warm up or cool down routine. It can also be conducted separately. Numerous tai chi apps are available free or for a small price. Many forms of martial arts such as Aikido incorporate flexibility, endurance, and strength training. However, without proper conditioning, older population and even younger adults will be prone to injuries such as traumatic brain injury, joint dislocations, tendinitis, muscles strains, ligament sprains, bruises, etc.