A team of researchers from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine has partnered with the Trainee Health Surveillance Flight 559th Medical Group’s Basic Military Training Team in Lackland, Texas to determine if increased vitamin D and calcium intake can improve bone health in military personnel.
Stress fractures and other bone and muscle injuries are among the most common causes of delay in basic military training. Five percent of males and 20% of females may experience a stress fracture during training. This causes trainees to miss valuable military training and sometimes can lead to drop out from the program.
Additionally, stress fractures are expensive health costs. They can require multiple hospital visits and medical tests, as well as physical therapy. It is estimated that a stress fracture costs the Air Force more than $6,000 per case.
“These injuries are costly to warfighters and to the military, as a significant portion of individuals that suffer from stress fracture leave military service and stress fracture results in substantial health care costs associated with treatment and rehabilitation,” said lead researcher Dr. James McClung.
The researchers, after a pilot study in 2012, set out to continue their research in October 2013. They have recruited both male and female Air Force recruits to undergo the study.
The participants of the study are receiving either a snack bar fortified with vitamin D and calcium or a placebo snack bar.
Dr. McClung added, “Our goal is that findings from these studies will provide the information necessary to determine the optimal vitamin D and calcium requirement of military personnel for the maintenance of bone health and prevention of stress fractures to keep warfighters mission ready for the long haul.”
Upon completion of the study, their data will be shared with senior leaders from the Department of Defense’s medical and training commands.
“Many trainees get demoralized after a stress fracture and quit. If we can prevent stress fractures or other injuries, it is much better for all concerned,” said Thomas Cropper, director of the Trainee Health Surveillance Flight 559th Medical Group.