Hip injuries plague Marines after intense training

Marine Corps Installations East
Story by Lance Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera

Date: 03.15.2012
Posted: 03.16.2012 10:38
News ID: 85353

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Intense training is part of being a Marine. As a part of America’s expeditionary force in readiness, Marines are tasked to remain well-trained and prepared for any number of conflicts and emergencies.

This arduous physical activity may lead to injuries, including injuries to the hips.

Injuring the hip, the largest ball-and-socket joint in the human body, can be very painful experience. It can lead to months of physical rehabilitation where a person is limited to crutches, and may require surgery.

Many hip injuries are due to training in some form, from initial training such as recruit training, Marine Combat Training, or Marine occupational specialty training to specialized training like Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training.

“[New Marines] enter a vastly different activity level that they had before,” said Cmdr. Michael Kuhn, the head of arthroscopic and sports medicine reconstruction, and orthopedics at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. “They’re going from very mild to moderate activity to high-impact activities.” New Marines’ bodies are not adjusted to the tempo of training and may have little time to recover, leading to injuries such as stress fractures.

While Marines are encouraged to report injuries and get treatment, many are prone to hiding their symptoms.

They may fear facing a stigma of weakness, they may not want to fall behind in training and they tend to be eager to move to the next stage of their Marine Corps career.

Kuhn has seen Marines who have waited to seek treatment suffer the consequences.

He has seen 20-year-old Marines whose hips have deteriorated to the point where they appear to have a 60-year-old’s hips.

“If you have an injury that’s significantly changing what you want to do and is reproducible, hiding it is not going to help you,” said Kuhn. “You need to let somebody know and seek medical attention before you have an injury that becomes much more significant that you may not be able to recover from.”

Kuhn sees more female patients than males for many hip problems; he credits this to their smaller frames and that many are of childbearing age.

“Women of childbearing age are more susceptible to injuries if they do not ensure that they have a balanced diet with adequate caloric intake,” said Kuhn. “The body continually removes and replaces bone throughout life. When the rate of removal exceeds production of new bone, trouble can occur in the form of a stress or complete fracture. Females of childbearing age are more susceptible [to these injuries].”

He also sees more injuries in high-impact jobs, such as those who hike, or jump from high distances with heavy packs on uneven terrain.

“It’s hard to avoid a hip injury,” said Kuhn. “Nobody plans for one. They generally occur from job requirements or recreational activities that people love and want to do.”

Kuhn said having good core strength and flexibility can go a long way in preventing injuries. Good core strength helps the hips so they don’t have to bear weight independently, and good flexibility prevents tears along with helping prevent other injuries.

For those who do end up with hip injuries, there are treatment options available in NHCL that may not be readily available elsewhere.

For instance, hip arthroscopies, a widely accepted, yet uncommon procedure in which a small camera is inserted into hip joint, are available at the hospital.

While hip injuries are relatively common within the military population, the majority of patients who suffer them can get back into fighting shape.

“The only way to completely eliminate the risk is to have a desk job which is obviously not what people come into the Marine Corps to do,” said Kuhn.