For the study, published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, researchers analyzed fitness and injury data of over 165,000 people recruited to the army between 2010 and 2013.
They found that army recruits who suffered injuries during basic combat training were most likely to hail from one of 11 southern and southeastern states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.
Recruits from these states were up to 28 per cent more likely to suffer training-related injuries, with a high correlation established between state-level fitness and the incidence of training injuries.
These injuries came at great cost to the Department of Defense (DoD). Each injury cost the DoD some $31,000 in treatment costs and additional expenses having to do with recruits’ delayed graduation and increased attrition rates.
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The findings are even more troubling in light of the fact that southern states are disproportionately represented in U.S. military recruitment.
Forty-four per cent of personnel recruited into the military in 2013 hailed from the southern U.S., despite the region accounting for only 36 per cent of people aged 18 to 24, according to the American Enterprise Institute.
The paper also notes that obesity was the second highest disqualifying medical condition between 2010 and 2014.