INTRODUCTION: The United States Army Rangers are a unique population whose training requirements are intensive, and physically and mentally demanding. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a movement screening tool designed to assess movement quality and asymmetries in movement with the potential to identify injury risk. This study was a descriptive, cross-sectional investigation examining associations between FMS scores and the various measures of health and performance of active duty soldiers in light infantry units who were involved in the U.S. Army Pre-Ranger Course (PRC).
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Before the PRC, 491 male soldiers (mean age = 24.0 ± 3.8 years; mean height = 176.6 ± 7.2 cm; mean body mass = 80.2 ± 9.8 kg) completed a questionnaire which included items on self-assessed physical fitness, last Army physical fitness test (APFT) score, tobacco use, and injury history. The soldiers then completed the FMS, which consisted of seven movements and three clearing tests. From the FMS results, a determination of asymmetries (i.e., differences in FMS scores between the right and left side of the body) was made. Differences between groups were analyzed via an independent sample t-test, a one-way analysis of variance, or a chi-square as appropriate. Significance was set at 0.05 a priori.
RESULTS: The average composite FMS score was 16.4 (±1.9) points. Soldiers reporting ≥290 APFT points achieved a higher FMS score than those reporting lower APFT scores (16.5 ± 2.0 vs 16.1 ± 2.0 points, P = 0.03). Soldiers reporting either tobacco use or a previous musculoskeletal injury had lower FMS scores than those not reporting these (tobacco: 16.1 ± 2.1 vs 16.5 ± 1.8 points, P = 0.02; injury: 16.0 ± 2.2 vs 16.6 ± 1.8 points, P < 0.01). FMS asymmetries were not related to APFT scores, tobacco use, or self-rated fitness. As self-rated fitness increased so did APFT scores.
CONCLUSIONS: Active duty soldiers of a light infantry division achieved FMS scores similar to other military populations tested, and the composite FMS score was related to higher APFT scores, absence of tobacco use, and absence of previous musculoskeletal injuries. Improving PRC candidate healthy habits through highlighting the negative associations between poorer fitness, cigarette tobacco use and movement quality, may reduce injury risk and increase PRC completion potential.