People enlist in the Australian military for a range of different reasons. Some people join because they feel a deep sense duty to their country and fellow Australians. Whilst others value the job security, professional development and training military service can provide. Another reason why people decide to join the army, navy or air force is the sense of adventure, travel and the physical nature of the job.
Serving in the military can offer unique opportunities you might not be able to access otherwise. However, the specialised and physical duties of military personnel can sometimes lead to increased physical exertion that places additional stress on their body, resulting in injury
Whether you are already employed in the military or are considering enlisting, you may wish to get a better understanding of the five most common injuries acquired during military service, and how to help minimise your risk of being impacted.
Back injuries at work are reasonably common in most industries. Lumbar pain is a common reason for people to visit a health professional and missing work. However, the very physical nature of military service means that military staff can be prone to injuring their backs.
You may damage your back during your service due to a one-off traumatic event or because of a series of smaller events due to the rigors of service.
How to help prevent back injuries*
In the case of back injuries prevention is better than cure. Your spine and body are designed to be active. Regular physical activity that utilises your core, lower back and abdominal muscles can help to support your spine and minimise the chance of something going wrong. Low impact exercise such as swimming, yoga, jogging, pilates, stretching and resistance workouts can all serve to strengthen your body.
Lower Limb Injury
Lower limb musculoskeletal injuries, which include shin splints, bone fractures, plantar fasciitis, ankle and knee trauma can be quite common among military personnel. These types of injuries can be exacerbated by the need to get on with the job and not allowing the time for injuries to properly heal before resuming duty.
How to help prevent injuries to lower limbs*
- Exercise on one leg to develop strength and balance in your lower joints;
- Utilise a brace or extra support during strenuous activities;
- Ensure you walk or run on an even flat surface wherever possible;
- Wear shoes and boots that provide sufficient arch support.
People in military service can have a greater chance of shoulder injuries due to deployment and training demands. This type of injury can be persistent and recurrent in nature. It can be aggravated by repetitive increased loading on the shoulder during training and military duties. Shoulder injuries in military personnel are typically caused by overuse.
How to help prevent shoulder injuries*
Rotator cuff strength is vital for stable shoulder muscles so here is how you might prevent shoulder injuries:
- If your shoulder is feeling sore, stop what you are doing
- Do not strain to lift or reach for something
- Maintain good posture
- Avoid repetitive overarm movement
- Exercise your shoulder with low impact slow, repetitive movements
Psychological injuries can come in many different forms and can be acquired even during peacetime service. Psychological injuries sometimes emerge after you’ve completed your military service and can be exacerbated by post-service issues such as marital problems, adjusting to civilian life, loss of family or support networks.
Taking care of your mental health*
- A sense of meaning or purpose is critical
- Focus on the aspects of your life where you have control
- Keep routines; sleep, exercise, social and professional activity.
- Ask for help and reach out for support.
Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Some injuries are not visible, but their effect is still impactful. Military service can often be associated with a heightened risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, usually because of combat deployment. During combat deployment you may be exposed to excessive noise from weapons, explosions, aircrafts and other machinery. For veterans returning from combat missions, hearing loss is a relatively common complaint.
How to help protect against hearing loss*
To avoid hearing loss in military service the primary method is the use of hearing protection. In situations where you may be exposed to excessive noise it is recommended you use devices such as moulded ear inserts, sound diminishing headsets and foam ear plugs. If you believe you have a noise injury it is vital you have an audiological test as soon as possible to avoid further damage to your hearing.
Serving in the military is a noble profession. However, if you believe you’ve been physically or psychologically impacted by your service it is recommended you seek informed advice from a legal specialist in Military Compensation. This is particularly important if you have been medically discharged from the Australian Defence Forces, if you have a current claim that has exceeded 3 months with no outcome, or if your claim has been rejected and you have received no compensation.
*advice is general and is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to injury prevention. If you have a serious or persistent mental or physical injury it is recommended you seek advice from a qualified health professional
The contents of this blog post are considered accurate as at the date of publication. However the applicable laws may be subject to change, thereby affecting the accuracy of the article. The information contained in this blog post is of a general nature only and is not specific to anyone’s personal circumstances. Please seek legal advice before acting on any of the information contained in this post.