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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: June 19, 2006
No: 06-23

Scientists are making gains for prevention and management of injury and pain

NATICK, Mass. -- Scientists at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) hope to improve Warfighter performance using their knowledge of musculoskeletal injuries and the effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on the body.

Warfighters have extreme physical demands placed on their bodies, including the need to move rapidly while carrying heavy loads over difficult terrain. As a result musculoskeletal injuries—which include injuries of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and other soft tissues—are prevalent among the nation’s Warfighters.

According to Dr. Edward Zambraski, division chief, Military Performance Division, USARIEM, “Musculoskeletal injuries are one of the top medical problems reported by Soldiers, especially during their physical training.”

Musculoskeletal injuries may impact not only a Warfighter’s ability to do his job well, but can also result in significant time away from his job to allow for recovery. In some cases, the injuries can lead to a disability discharge. 

According to Dr. Paul Amoroso, an Army colonel and USARIEM research epidemiologist, musculoskeletal injuries are the number one cause of disability discharge. By investigating the prevalence of musculoskeletal injuries and assessing how Soldiers are being trained, USARIEM scientists hope to find ways to improve Soldier performance while reducing injury. The scientists also hope to reduce the downtime caused by Warfighter injuries.

Problems with musculoskeletal training injuries have been studied most frequently during Basic Combat Training (BCT). It is not unusual for 25 percent of men and 50 percent of women basic trainees to experience a musculoskeletal injury. USARIEM, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., has been investigating basic training injuries since 1980.

Zambraski, a leading expert on the effects on NSAIDs on kidney function, said that much of Soldier use, and overuse, of NSAIDs is driven by their high rate of musculoskeletal injuries. In an effort to keep going, many Warfighters rely on NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen.

These pain relievers are fine in small doses, said Zambraski, but problems arise when Warfighters take them too frequently at too high a dosage.

Zambraski explained that NSAIDs work by temporarily blocking the body’s natural production of prostaglandins (PGs). PGs promote inflammation and pain, but also perform other important and essential bodily functions.

In the stomach, PGs protect the lining from acid. By taking too many NSAIDs, Warfighters put themselves at risk for ulcers or other gastrointestinal problems. In the kidneys, vasodilator PGs widen blood vessels, helping to maintain renal blood flow and to protect kidney function.

According to Zambraski, one goal of USARIEM’s research program is to reduce musculoskeletal injuries which would have the beneficial effect of reducing the need for NSAIDs among Soldiers. This research is also examining the effects of other compounds that can reduce inflammation and pain, but not decrease the body’s production of beneficial PGs.

For more information about USARIEM, please visit the website:

This page last updated on 10 May 2006.