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Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011

AROUND THE ARMY: Smokers have increased injury risk

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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND — Nearly one-third of active-duty service members smoke, and that figure increases among troops in a combat zone, according to the 2008 Department of Defense Survey of Health-Related Behaviors.

Most Soldiers know that smoking cigarettes can eventually cause lung cancer and emphysema, but one does not have to wait 20 or 30 years to experience the adverse effects of smoking.

Multiple studies by U.S. Army Public Health Command scientists show that smoking has immediate health effects, such as increased injury risk and diminished physical performance.

“Past studies of Army basic trainees show the risk of injuries among Soldiers who smoke was as much as 90 percent higher than nonsmokers,” said Michelle Chervak, senior epidemiologist at the USAPHC.

“From past data as well as analysis of recent data collected on operational units, we can definitely say that smokers have a greater risk of any injury, and more specifically, overuse injuries, (which is) damage to musculoskeletal tissue that accumulates with repetitive activities such as running,” she added. “Higher injury risk is likely due to factors that impair the body’s healing and repair processes.”

USAPHC studies have also demonstrated that smoking negatively impacts muscle endurance, especially as Soldiers get older.

“Our data show that smokers perform fewer push-ups and sit-ups on the Army Physical Fitness Test,” Chervak said.

Smoking can also affect mission readiness. USAPHC studies have also shown that Soldiers who use tobacco have reduced night vision and mental sharpness, and increased risk of heat and cold injuries. Nicotine decreases oxygenated blood flow, resulting in a 30 percent reduction in night vision for normal eyes, and 50 percent reduction in those wearing corrective lenses.

Likewise, smoking also causes reduced blood flow to the extremities, which leads to more heat and cold injuries as the body is unable to cool and warm them, especially fingers and toes.

Troops in Korea first to field new gear

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — The 2nd Combat Aviation “Talon” Brigade, became the first Army unit to field the new Joint Protective Aircrew Ensemble equipment in October.

While chemical attacks remain a constant threat from terrorist attacks all around the globe, Col. James T. Barker, 2nd CAB commander, said South Korea is an excellent location to field the equipment first.

“With one of the world’s largest chemical weapons arsenals just across the border (in North Korea), the importance of having the best equipment available to protect our Soldiers and aviators cannot be understated,” he said. “The addition of this new equipment increases the Talon Brigade’s ability to respond to a chemical or biological attack and provides our Soldiers with the necessary tools to fight and survive under extremely demanding battlefield conditions.”

“The equipment substantially improves 2nd ID’s ability to ‘fight tonight’ because we are using equipment right now that is recommended for aviation crews,” said David Weems, 2nd ID’s force modernization officer. “While the suit is not technically a deterrent, it still remains valuable for us as an enabler, providing the ability to fight in a contaminated environment four hours longer than the previous suits so no matter what the enemy throws at us, we are ready to fight.”

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