Efficacy of neuromuscular exercises to promote movement quality and reduce musculoskeletal injury during initial military training in Royal Navy recruits

Paul E. Muckelt, C. N. T. Power, J. Patterson, L. Stevens, C. Powell, M. B. Warner, M. J. Stokes, J. L. Fallowfield

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Introduction Musculoskeletal injuries (MSKIs) are a significant problem in the Royal Navy, contributing to 48% of all medical discharges from service between 2019 and 2020. The objective of the study was to assess efficacy of implementing a neuromuscular training intervention to improve movement quality and reduce MSKIs in Royal Navy recruits undertaking initial military training.
Methods Neuromuscular training (pre-activation exercises, focusing on hip control) was integrated into the warm-up exercise regimen preceding physical training during the 10-week initial naval training (recruits) programme (January–March 2020) at HMS Raleigh (intervention group; n=162). A control group comprised (n=90) of recruits entering training from January 2019, who completed the standard warm-up programme prior to physical training. Movement control of the intervention group (intervention) was assessed before and after the 10-week programme using the Hip and Lower-Limb Movement Screen (HLLMS). Injury incidence proportion for both groups was determined retrospectively by review of medical notes.
Results The control group’s MSKI incidence proportion was 31%, which was higher (p<0.05) than the 8% reported in the intervention group. The majority of MSKIs were of the lower limb, and were reported in weeks 1, 2 and 5 of the 10-week training programme. Movement control, as assessed by the HLLMS score, improved (pretraining (week 1) and post-training (week 10) HLLMS score (mean (SD) pre: 11.2 (5.6); post: 8.4 (3.9); t=5.829, p<0.001) following the neuromuscular training in the intervention group but was not assessed in the control group.
Conclusion A neuromuscular control intervention was successfully implemented during the initial military training in the Royal Navy. The cohort undertaking the intervention demonstrated lower injury incidence compared with an equivalent cohort of recruits who undertook standard training. Movement control improved following the intervention, indicating better movement quality. Continued use of the programme may reduce military training attrition in the Royal Navy.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Military Health
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2024
Externally publishedYes

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