By Kirk Fechter, Garrison Safety Officer

Safety on the Fly Health Promotion - Injury Prevention (Part 3)

As a Safety Officer, I often give tips to avoid injury which are really in the health promotion domain. I apply this to my own life recognizing that the authoritative expertise resides with our health care professionals.


I am preparing for the changing weather of autumn. I start wearing sweaters and sweat pants for runs. Gradually, I will wear gloves and a hat. I look at temperature, but also the wind which creates “wind chill” making it colder. I consider wind breaks such as woods and duration in the cold. A charged cell phone is a key device in an emergency. If in an area with poor cell reception, I use text because it uses less bandwidth and can work when voice is unavailable. My car has a cell phone charger, extra battery, blanket, water, and snacks. I have less worry about hand sanitizer in the car, because there is less heat. I have several extra masks for myself or, if needed, to potentially help someone else.


As an avid runner, I have always been interested in injury prevention.  I first started running in Converse tennis shoes. It was a stride forward when I changed to running shoes which have advanced much in technology over the last 50 years (including price!!).


I was then perplexed when in basic training - we ran in boots. Many injuries such as shin splints and blisters occurred. It made sense to do road marches, but running was different. I was able to run 10:48 for two miles of my physical fitness test in boots. My fastest PT test in running shoes was 9:56.

Ultimately, medical professionals prevailed because running in boots in basic training and at other times resulted in shin splints when combined with overuse injuries.


The Army War College discovered that one significant way to reduce injuries is new shoes once a year. I am breaking my new shoes in to avoid a blister injury.


Before I run, I stretch all my muscles. However, improper stretching can cause injuries if for instance we bounce bending over to stretch the hamstrings. I use the static stretch. I bend over to a point of resistance, and I hold it for 20 seconds.


As I gained conditioning, recently I tore a muscle when I ran faster. So I had to back off to let the muscle heal. One thing helping me in that area is my nutrition. To lose weight, I am on a Keto diet, so I don’t have the glycogen energy stored that powers better performance. I will have to be careful when I lose weight and alter my diet for more carbs.


I lift weights. I have a bit of arthritis, so I use less range of motion on some lifts and also reduce the weights. I used to play basketball and there was a lot of dynamic range of motion. Even when I was younger, I was sore if I had not played basketball for an interval.


At the installation Safety and Occupational Health Advisory Committee (SOHAC), we had a discussion on the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). Some of the motions required with weighted objects can cause injury based on the stress of new range of motions. Experts have listed control measures to avoid injury. The primary way to avoid injury: start the range of motion with minimal weight and gradually build up to increased weight until peak performance is achieved.


It is amusing to look back at all stresses that I put on my body such as floating with my parachute to a farmer’s field in Ranger school. I limped for a day! I ran up and down rough trails and patrolled over rough ground with many “wait a minute” vines and crossed cold streams in the dark. I slid down the cable into Victory pond.


Now in my old age, I realize my body is more fragile. Slips, trips, and falls comprise most of our workers’ compensation claims. I realize that I must concentrate going down stairs. As a safety professional, safety in the workplace is personal. When I see a loose step or depression, I have marking tape in my car- it is always with me. I then submit a work order to DPW. I follow up regularly because a fall can result in a “career ending” injury. I remember a co-worker having some fun in what was called the “Wacky Olympics.” Wearing swimming flippers for a short race, she fell, was injured, and never returned to work.


Stay vigilant to avoid injuries, Team Meade!!