Air Force Special Operations Command

Laboratory: Hurlburt Field, FL

The lack of scientifically guided physical training significantly diminishes physical readiness and predisposes the AFSOC Operator to an increased risk of musculoskeletal injury and impacts the tactical requirements necessary under extreme conditions. As many of these injuries are preventable or their severity mitigated, tactically-specific activities are necessary to implement into current physical training to better meet the demands of combat. Physical training remains the cornerstone of preparing the AFSOC Operator. As such a scientific examination of training relative to task and demand analyses is warranted to meet the request and needs of AFSOC. Considerable time, resources, capital, and logistical preparation efforts are expended by AFSOC to maintain the military readiness of its Operators.

Given the tasks and demands required of physical training and tactical missions over varying terrains and under extreme environmental conditions, implementation of an injury prevention model promotes military readiness by improving physical and physiological components. The University of Pittsburgh has conducted two injury prevention and performance optimization research projects that are sponsored by the Department of Defense. The goal of these projects was to address the current rates of musculoskeletal injury anecdotally identified by the medical commands respectively, of Naval Special Warfare, US Army Special Operations Command, and 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Each research study was designed to address the group-specific injury risk factors and suboptimal physical and physiological characteristics, which inhibit tactical readiness. The procedures employed for these research projects were based on the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory Injury Control and Performance Optimization Model, designed and validated over a 20 year period within the sports medicine discipline to optimize performance and reduce the risk of injury in the elite athlete. This model consists of task and demand analyses of training and tactical operations, identification of risk factors for injury and of inhibitors to optimal performance, and improvement of physical, physiological, and nutritional characteristics through specifically designed intervention programs. Consistent with our injury prevention model, this project was culturally-specific to the Operators of AFSOC.