Smoking boosts injury risk
NEW YORK, Apr12 (Reuters Health) -- During basic training, army recruits who are smokers are 50% more likely to suffer injuries such as sprains and fractures than nonsmokers, new research shows.
The long-term risks of smoking -- cancer, heart disease -- are well known. But the findings confirm that smoking also has a more immediate impact on health, noted Dr. John W. Gardner of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Rockville, Maryland, one of the authors of the study. He hopes this news will be enough to deter the youngest group of smokers from puffing away.
``It's hard to deter teenagers from anything,'' Gardner told Reuters Health. ``They think it'll never happen to me. This is an immediate effect.''
The researchers, who report their results in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, studied 2,002 men and women, aged 17 to 22, who underwent 8 weeks of basic military training. Participants did not smoke during training.
The 35% of recruits who had smoked at least one cigarette in the month prior to beginning training had significantly higher injury rates during training than those who were nonsmokers (40% versus 29% for men, and 56% versus 46% for women). The authors did not differentiate between heavy smokers and people who smoke casually.
Overall, smokers were 1.5 times more likely to suffer injury. Overuse injuries were more common than traumatic injuries. The most significant injuries included strains, sprains and tendinitis-type injuries.
``The detrimental effects of smoking on injuries thus appear to persist for a period of time after cessation of smoking,'' the authors noted. Since the study ended at 8 weeks, the researchers could not predict how long the negative effects last, Gardner added.
The reason smoking is associated with a higher risk of injury probably has to do with the fact that smoking is thought to decrease bone density and slow wound healing, Gardner said. ''People have suggested behavioral differences'' because smokers tend to be less physically active and more prone to illness than nonsmokers, Gardner stated, however, if this was true, ``I do not think you would have such a broad effect.''
Other studies have shown similar results, Gardner said, but few have confirmed these results also apply to women. Gardner noted there was no reason to expect women would not have the same results.
He said he hoped some teenagers would stop smoking if they knew that their athletic prowess would be affected. ``I hope it would make a bit of a difference because it's a more immediate response,'' Gardner said.