Smoking linked to physical injuries

March 15, 2000

Smokers were 1.5 times more likely than nonsmokers to suffer fractures, sprains, and other physical injuries during an eight-week basic training program, a study of Army recruits revealed.

"Soldiers or others do not have to wait 10 to 30 years for heart disease or cancer in order to experience the detrimental effects of smoking," said study co-author John W. Gardner, MD, DrPH, of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD. "These data show that at least some of the detrimental effects of cigarette smoking may occur at an early age and have immediate consequences."

The effects of smoking persist for some time even after smokers quit. Risk of injury among smokers was higher despite the fact that recruits were forbidden from smoking during the training period, according to the researchers.

Gardner and colleagues examined smoking and injury rates among 915 female and 1,087 male Army recruits. Thirty-five percent of both the women and men had smoked at least one cigarette in the previous month; the majority had smoked about a half a pack or less per day.

The researchers reported their findings in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Overall, one-half of the women and one-third of the men had at least once physical injury during training. Risk of injury increased for both women and men who smoked. Fifty-six percent of female smokers suffered an injury compared with 46 percent of women who did not smoke. Similarly, 40 percent of male smokers suffered an injury compared with 29 percent of men who did not smoke.

Even after the investigators controlled for other factors that might influence risk of injury -- including age, weight, and initial level of physical fitness -- smokers were still 1.5 times more likely to be injured than were nonsmokers.

Some studies suggest that smoking can impair healing of wounds from trauma, surgery, and disease. It is plausible that smoking interferes with the body1s ability to repair muscle, bone, and other tissue, leaving smokers more susceptible to injury, the researchers say.

Differences in behavior between smokers and nonsmokers may also explain some of the differences in injury rates. Smokers in the current study had more previous injuries and illness, were less physically active, and were less physically fit than nonsmokers, the researchers say.
The research was supported by the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, sponsored by the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine and the American College of Preventive Medicine, is published eight times a year by Elsevier Science. The Journal is a forum for the communication of information, knowledge, and wisdom in prevention science, education, practice, and policy. For more information about the journal, contact the editorial office at (619) 594-7344.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health For information about the Center, call Petrina Chong, (202) 387-282

Center for Advancing Health

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