NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- The Navy places a high value on maintaining physically fit Sailors and frequently takes steps to ensure the safety of Sailors participating in any form of exercise.
According to Naval Administrative Message (NAVADMIN) 108/19, four Sailors have passed away in the past year during regular physical fitness exercise. The NAVADMIN informs Sailors of the risk factors for exercise-related death and the strategies to prevent those risks.
“I feel sympathy for the families, friends, and shipmates of the four Sailors across the fleet who passed away during physical training during the past year,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman David Long. “It motivates me to re-examine our program for anything we might be missing, meticulously implement operational risk management, and try to inspire healthy choices by Sailors before they suffer injuries. A basic principle of what we do as hospital corpsman is to eliminate preventable causes of death, so I hate hearing that we've lost Sailors during what should be very safe training.”
Command fitness leaders (CFL), like Long, pay close attention to Sailors during workouts, looking for warning signs that a Sailor may be struggling during exercise. They are trained to provide initial medical assistance if needed, and are charged with removing a Sailor from an unsafe situation if necessary.
The Navy continually reevaluates its processes, taking feedback from Sailors throughout the service. In light of this, modifications have been made to the Physical Readiness Program. These modifications are outlined in NAVADMIN 108/19, which was released in May 2019. Notably, commanding officers have been given more leniency in awarding “bad day” makeup Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) for those impacted by any signs of distress. This will allow the individual to prioritize health safety over a score, according to the NAVADMIN. Additionally, video links have been provided in the document, and CFLs, first responders, corpsmen, recruit division commanders, and supervisors are encouraged to watch the videos and apply some of the lessons presented in their current positions.
Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Angel Ortega, administration department’s CFL, echoed some of the sentiments seen throughout the NAVADMIN.
“Sailors should ensure they are consistently making good habits to improve their lives,” said Ortega. “A Sailor should make plans to exercise regularly outside of their scheduled command or departmental physical training sessions. They should also try their best to track their calorie intake on a day-to-day basis.”
According to the NAVADMIN, all personnel should be on guard for signs that a participant is struggling and be ready to terminate the evolution. Some of these signs can be rapidly apparent, while others can be a gradual worsening of a physical condition. Any signs of distress must be evaluated by a medical provider before returning to exercise.
Long also described what he does to ensure the safety of Sailors during any physical exercise.
“Our command fitness team and medical departments already do a great job working together to screen Sailors and keep them safe during physical fitness,” said Long. “Most of the changes at our command will be behind the scenes in the way we track [Physical Activity Risk Factor Questionnaires], medical waivers, and 'bad day' chits. Some of the more visible changes will be new information included in the briefs we provide at command indoctrination, new pre-physical activity questions before every physical fitness event, and wet bulb globe temperature devices being monitored by hospital corpsman during training events.”
Ortega also added that he encourages Sailors to drink an adequate amount of water daily and during the Fitness Enhancement Program (FEP) and command physical fitness sessions.
By exercising regularly, monitoring hydration, and not over exceeding one’s own physical limitations, Sailors can stay safe for all of the future physical training and readiness tests to come.
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