The Most Common Injuries Occurring in Military Service

July 9, 2023 by admin


Military service demands physical resilience and endurance, as personnel are exposed to challenging conditions and rigorous training. After working the last 3 years in Okinawa the team at Okinawa sports and Spinal are well versed to help you manage the challenges of service.

While military training aims to enhance physical capabilities, it also carries the risk of various injuries. Understanding the most common injuries that occur in military service is crucial for developing preventive strategies, improving training protocols, and ensuring the well-being of service members. 

It can be helpful to distinguish injuries sustained in combat operations verse injuries sustained in service and performing your regularly job description roles. 

In this blog Okinawa Sports and Spinal explores some of the frequently encountered injuries in military service, backed by evidence from scientific journals.

  1. Musculoskeletal Injuries: Musculoskeletal injuries are the most prevalent among military personnel and can have a significant impact on operational readiness. A study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery revealed that musculoskeletal injuries accounted for approximately 70% of non-combat injuries in the U.S. military (Owens et al., 2010). These injuries often result from overuse, improper training techniques, or the strenuous nature of military tasks. 


Also of interest was that females were slightly more likely to be to sustain an MSK injury than their male counterparts ( 7). 

Common musculoskeletal injuries include stress fractures, sprains, strains, and tendinitis. Musculoskeletal injuries (MSKI) exact a substantial toll on military medical readiness and, in turn, the lethality of the fighting force. In one recent study Le (et al ) found that 47% of all 19,755 combat injuries included for analysis involved the extremities and around 11 to 14% where spinal injuries (6).

It was also found that MSKI affect 800,000 Service Members annually, account for 53% to 76% of the medically nondeployable military population, and cause 19% of all lost work time among US military Service Members (6). Another study found that 65% of troops that could not be deployed for medical reasons was from MSK injuries ( 7). 

In Short MSK is the the most common, the most expensive and the leads to the biggest drain on operational readiness and thankfully one that can Okinawa Sports and Spinal is equipped to deal with. 

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI): Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) have gained considerable attention in recent years due to their potential long-term consequences. TBIs can occur as a result of explosive blasts, vehicular accidents, or falls during military operations. A study published in JAMA Neurology reported that TBI was the most common injury among military personnel evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan (Okie, 2005). The effects of TBI can range from mild concussions to severe cognitive impairments, underscoring the need for improved protective equipment and timely medical intervention.

Combat Injuries: In combat situations, military personnel face the risk of sustaining severe and life-threatening injuries. Thanks to modern protective equipment the survivability of combat injuries is now over 90% (6) but this comes with a very costly increase in the level of MSK trauma and injuries needing complex management.  ( Ballistic trauma, caused by bullets or shrapnel, is a significant concern.

A comprehensive review published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery analyzed combat-related injuries and highlighted the prevalence of extremity injuries, followed by injuries to the head and neck, chest, and abdomen (Eastridge et al., 2012). The study emphasized the importance of rapid medical evacuation, advanced trauma care, and effective protective gear in minimizing the impact of combat injuries.

  1. Heat and Cold Injuries: Military operations often involve exposure to extreme environmental conditions, leading to heat and cold-related injuries. Heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and dehydration are common in hot climates, while frostbite, hypothermia, and immersion foot (trench foot) are prevalent in cold environments. A study published in Military Medicine found that heat and cold injuries were among the top non-combat injuries in the U.S. Army (McGraw et al., 2019). Adequate training, proper equipment, and effective preventive measures are vital in mitigating these injuries.


  1. Overuse Injuries: The demanding physical nature of military training and operations can lead to overuse injuries. These injuries result from repetitive strain on muscles, tendons, and joints, often due to excessive physical exertion or inadequate recovery periods. A study published in Military Medicine highlighted the high prevalence of overuse injuries in military personnel, particularly in activities such as running, rucking, and jumping (Finestone et al., 2018). It’s been the experience of the staff at Okinawa Sports and Spinal that pack march training is one of the most common ways to develope an overuse injury so keep that in mind when doing this activity and always keep your command updated with your condition.

Developing well-structured training programs, emphasizing rest and recovery, and implementing injury prevention strategies can significantly reduce overuse injuries 

 Military service comes with inherent risks, and understanding the most common injuries that occur is essential for ensuring the health and well-being of military personnel. Musculoskeletal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, combat injuries, heat and cold injuries, and overuse injuries are among the most frequently encountered injuries.

By implementing evidence-based preventive measures, improving training protocols, and providing adequate medical support, military organizations can minimize the occurrence and impact of these injuries, thereby safeguarding the physical and mental health of their personnel.

If you would like to make an appointment with an english speaking Physical therapist, Chiropractor or get a sports message you can book here 


  1. Owens BD, Kragh JF Jr, Macaitis J, et al. Characterization of extremity wounds in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2010;92(1):7-15.
  2. Okie S. Traumatic brain injury in the war zone. N Engl J Med. 2005;352(20):2043-2047.
  3. Eastridge BJ, Mabry RL, Seguin P, et al. Death on the battlefield (2001-2011): implications for the future of combat casualty care. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012;73(6 Suppl 5):S431-S437.
  4. McGraw ML, Allsopp MP, Farina EK, et al. Nonbattle injury among deployed troops: An epidemiologic analysis using electronic medical record data. Mil Med. 2019;184(3-4):e144-e150.
  5. Finestone AS, Milgrom C, Ramlawi A, et al. Overuse injuries in female infantry recruits during low-intensity basic training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018;50(3):471-477.
  6. Patrick D Grimm 1Timothy C MauntelBenjamin K PotterCombat and Noncombat Musculoskeletal Injuries in the US Military ” Sports Med Arthrosc Rev . 2019 Sep;27(3):84-91.

7. Joseph M Molloy 1 2Timothy L Pendergrass 2Ian E Lee 3Michelle C Chervak 4Keith G Hauret 4Daniel I Rhon Musculoskeletal Injuries and United States Army Readiness Part I: Overview of Injuries and their Strategic Impact Mil Med
2020 Sep 18;185(9-10):e1461-e1471.  doi: 10.1093/milmed/usaa027.

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