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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Nov;113(11):2655-72. doi: 10.1007/s00421-013-2591-1. Epub 2013 Feb 22.

Physiological Employment Standards III: physiological challenges and consequences encountered during international military deployments.

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  • 1Army Institute of Public Health, Army Public Health Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Aberdeen, MD, 21010-5403, USA,


Modern international military deployments in austere environments (i.e., Iraq and Afghanistan) place considerable physiological demands on soldiers. Significant physiological challenges exist: maintenance of physical fitness and body composition, rigors of external load carriage, environmental extremes (heat, cold, and altitude), medical illnesses, musculoskeletal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and environmental exposure hazards (i.e., burn pits, vehicle exhaust, etc.). To date there is very little published research and no comprehensive reviews on the physiological effects of deployments. The purpose of this paper is to overview what is currently known from the literature related mainly to current military conflicts with regard to the challenges and consequences from deployments. Summary findings include: (1) aerobic capacity declines while muscle strength, power and muscular endurance appear to be maintained, (2) load carriage continues to tax the physical capacities of the Soldier, (3) musculoskeletal injuries comprise the highest proportion of all injury categories, (4) environmental insults occur from both terrestrial extremes and pollutant exposure, and (5) post-deployment concerns linger for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. A full understanding of these responses will assist in identifying the most effective risk mitigation strategies to ensure deployment readiness and to assist in establishment of military employment standards.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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