BMT Injuries: Prevention & Management

Injuries occurring from physical activities are a dime a dozen. However, they are more prevalent in intensive physical training sessions such as Basic Military Training (BMT). In the last article on the Top 5 BMT Injuries during National Service, we covered the types of injuries that recruits may sustain during their BMT phase of their National Service (NS). In this article, we explore more about the prevention of these common BMT injuries.

Sometimes, we are not sure what steps we can take to minimise the risk of injury, and what we should do when we injure ourselves. Through this second part of the article focusing on enlistment into BMT, we hope to provide tips from our team of physiotherapists on prevention of BMT injuries and share what servicemen can do in the event they have injured themselves.

bmt injuries prevention
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Prevention of Injuries During BMT Training

BMT and NS presents new and real challenges to servicemen, especially given the type of physical and mental demands it has on them. Moreover, they are training in unfamiliar environments, with unfamiliar equipment and doing unfamiliar activities. Servicemen should still be cautious when they undergoing repeated types of training or sessions.

Although training during BMT is progressive, recruits should learn to exercise their physical limits and load progressively and gradually during training. They should stop and pull themselves out of training if need be. These tips are to ensure that recruits minimise the risk of injury and prevent aggravating an existing injury.

During training, recruits should take warm-ups seriously, and ensure they have an adequate warm-up that includes static and dynamic stretching before they participate in training. Gradual progressive training is also important to adapt to increased loads and intensity, doing exercises like push-ups and squats with proper form and muscle engagement will also train the correct muscle groups on top of prevention of BMT injuries. For instance, shoulders should be above the wrists for push-ups, and knees shouldn’t be bent beyond the toes when doing squats.

Some of the tips that we have shared in the previous article to minimise injury to servicemen should not be ignored. These includes gradually increasing the load from their equipment like their rifle and field pack (see Route March), developing ankle stability by wearing in-soles (see IPPT) and boots tight enough to prevent the foot from rolling excessively (see Field Camp), and being aware of their environment such as uneven terrain and travelling downhill and uphill (see Field Camp).

What Should I Do If I Already Have An Injury During My BMT Training?

Another vital aspect of ensuring pain-free training is learning to manage possible injuries that servicemen may get.

While management and prevention of injuries may sound similar, they are in fact different. Injury prevention focuses on minimising the risks and chances of a person injuring him or herself. Injury management, however, zeroes in on learning how to deal with and respond to injuries when someone has sustained it.

In light of this, we will be delving into the more common types of injuries servicemen may sustain during their BMT training, and focus on how they can deal with them responsibly and adequately.

Ankle Sprain

The most common approach in the first few days of an ankle sprain to take is the RICE approach.

  • Rest. Stop training and avoid too much movement of the injured foot and leg.
  • Ice. Use an ice pack immediately for 15 to 20 minutes and repeat every two to three hours while you’re awake.
  • Compression. To help stop swelling, compress the ankle until the swelling stops. Don’t hinder circulation by wrapping too tightly. Begin wrapping at the end farthest from your heart.
  • Elevation. To reduce swelling, elevate your ankle above the level of your heart, especially at night. Gravity helps reduce swelling by draining excess fluid.

In the initial stage, when there is inflammation and swelling, what you want to do is to protect the ankle and let it heal internally. Subsequently, you would want to regain the mobility, strength and balance in the affected ankle. A therapist can assess your ankle and work on the muscles, joints and balance in the ankle by means of manual therapy, activity modification, education of self-management techniques and exercise.

Shin Splint

Servicemen commonly sustain shin splints during training in BMT due to the increased intensity and stress placed on the shin during training in BMT. An increase in running speed, distance, duration, and frequency during training are reasons why shin splints during BMT training are common.

Recommended acute management tips to manage shin splints include seeing a specialist, having physiotherapy sessions, and taking medicine like Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

These are vital not just to ease the pain, but to correct improper technique, and to adopt tips such as in-soles and modified running shoes and running techniques that will help in recovery and prevention of future aches and BMT injuries.

Shoulder injury

Shoulder injuries are common as the shoulder joint is the joint with the most flexibility in your body. By having such a wide range of motion, it also means that the shoulder joint is less stable and prone to injuries. If you are experiencing shoulder pain, you should refrain from performing overhead motions and avoid heavy lifting to minimize placing stress and weight on the shoulder.

Ice the sore areas of the shoulders to temporarily reduce pain and inflammation. After the inflammation has eased, you can target the sore area with heat therapy via the use of a hot pack or heating pad.

You should also visit your Medical Officer. He may prescribe you NSAIDs and other over-the-counter pain relievers.

Recruits may want to start improving the mobility that was lost after the injury to regain stability and strength to the surrounding shoulder muscles. Physiotherapy for shoulder pain can help to improve the joint mobility in the shoulder through shoulder joint mobilisations and strengthening up essential shoulder muscles.

Low Back Pain/Disc Injury

Although low back pain causes and disc injuries may feel similar, they are extremely different in their management styles and symptoms.

Low back pain is concentrated at the lower half of your back. However, disc injuries can cause the pain from your back to radiate down your legs. Backwards bending also aggravates back pain when the spine is compressed. Disc injuries on the other hand are aggravated when someone bends forward and is recovering from the bend.

You should ice a low back pain for the first two weeks of injury. To ease the pain, over-the-counter painkillers can also be taken. Physiotherapy for back pain is advisable, especially if the pain is serious or recurring.

The common approach taken for disc injury is physiotherapy management. While over-the-counter painkillers can relieve the pain, it is merely a short-term measure. Servicemen should see a physiotherapist, to adopt proper posture and measures to treat disc injury through manual and exercise therapy.

Wrist Injury

Wrist injuries are common during training in BMT. Hand and arm exercises like push ups have the potential to limit the movement and mobility of recruits. Servicemen should take the RICE approach to treat wrist injuries; similar to ankle sprains, shoulder injury, and lower back pain.

  • Resting the wrist for the first two weeks whilst limiting movement and weight added to it is vital to ensure proper recovery of the wrist. 
  • Icing the wrist along with resting helps to relieve pain and swelling. Ice the pain for 20-30 minutes for every 3 to 4 hours until the pain is gone.
  • Compressing the wrist with a bandage will help to limit movement of the wrist to ensure a smooth recovery.
  • Elevating the wrist above your heart is the final step. Do this on a pillow or back of a chair as often as possible, even when asleep.

Over-the-counter painkillers like the ones listed earlier in the article with other injuries can be taken. They should be taken moderately, or at a frequency and intake recommended by the doctor or physiotherapist.

See a physiotherapist to assess the pain. Treatments such as wrist muscle releases and wrist joint mobilisations can be done. Exercises and stretches will be taught after the treatment is done on the wrist. This strengthens muscles, and minimises the risk of future injuries to steadily allow the strained muscles to heal and recover. 

Seek Professional Help

Physiotherapy will ensure a smooth recovery with advice and guidance. Muscle strengthening exercises and treatment will be useful so that recruits may return to training injury-free. Physiotherapy is especially beneficial when you’re unsure of how to respond in preventing and managing injuries.

These are to ensure the pain goes away. They ensure recovery in the long-term, so that clients may continue to exercise confidently without worry of injuries.

Our team of physiotherapists are here to guide you with proper help and tips to ensure that training for recruits should not be a painful experience but something they can participate to the best of their abilities without the worry of injuring themselves. 

It is also the responsibility of each serviceman to take care of their own bodies, and others around them. BMT should be a phase where recruits can train properly. They should exercise care and proper precautions to manage injuries and prevent them as much as possible. It does not help to keep mum and quiet about any discomforts they may have sustained during their training. Servicemen should check with their commanders and the camp medical officer so as not to aggravate any possible injuries.

We wish you all the best for your future endeavours and training in BMT!