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The Military’s Biggest Threat: Video Games

Recruits today are coming from a "far more sedentary lifestyle."

Last month the Military Health System put out a release that helped justify my father’s reasoning for ignoring my ongoing pleas for a Nintendo Entertainment System during my formative years – video games make you lazy. 

Granted, he was also worried about us monopolizing the TV in the living room, but his approach does reinforce the concerns in the release – namely that new recruits are struggling with initial entry training, or boot camp, because their bodies are just too weak.

Quoting the release, “Today’s recruits are coming from a far more sedentary lifestyle, making their skeletons more prone to injuries because they’re not used to the kind of intense activity they will face at basic training.” 

Just to clarify, the MHS is targeting Gen Z recruits aged 18-25, so it’s not those ever-aggravating millennials … this time.

The release goes on to quote Army Major Jon-Marc Thibodeau who states that, “The ‘Nintendo Generation’ soldier skeleton is not toughened by activity prior to arrival, so some of them break more easily.”

Specific injuries that seem to be occurring all too frequently from these “softer” soldiers are stress fractures, muscle strains and ACL tears, as well as other injuries from an increasing number of falls.

Interestingly enough, these statements come on heels of a separate release from the Office of Naval Research touting the potential of video games for soldier readiness. 

According to Dr. C. Shawn Green from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, research shows that those who play first-person shooter games are able to more quickly enhance cognitive control, top-down attention, and peripheral visual processing skills.

The Office of Naval Research is leaning on these findings to design training for Marines and Sailors, as according to the ONR, playing these games can change the structure and organization of a person’s brain, helping to improve orientation and memory tasks.

In other words, these games help individuals to process visual data, remember more details about the environment, and then react to that situation with the proper procedure-based steps. In addition to combat maneuvers, enhancing this type of learning aptitude can be a huge assist to surgeons or pilots.

As someone who has been both a basic training trainee and trainer, my advice would be to maybe just go for a run before hunkering down for your next Call of Duty marathon.

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