Introduction Intense military operations during deployment or training are associated with elevations in inflammatory cytokine markers. However, the influence of an inflammatory response on military-specific skills is unclear. This study examined the association between brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), glial fibrillar acidic protein, markers of inflammation, marksmanship and cognitive function following a week of intense military field training.
Methods Twenty male soldiers (20.1±0.6 years; 1.78±0.05m; 74.1±7.9kg) from the same elite combat unit of the Israel Defense Forces volunteered to participate in this study. Soldiers completed a five-day period of intense field training including navigation of 27.8km/day with load carriages of ~50% of their body mass. Soldiers slept approximately fivehours per day and were provided with military field rations. Following the final navigational exercise, soldiers returned to their base and provided a blood sample. In addition, cognitive function assessment and both dynamic and static shooting (15 shots each) were performed following a 200 m gauntlet, in which soldiers had to use hand-to-hand combat skills to reach the shooting range.
Results Results revealed that tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) concentrations were inversely correlated with dynamic shooting (r=−0.646, p=0.005). In addition, a trend (r=0.415, p=0.098) was noted between TNF-α concentrations and target engagement speed (ie, time to complete the shooting protocol). BDNF concentrations were significantly correlated with the Serial Sevens Test performance (r=0.672, p=0.012).
Conclusion The results of this investigation indicate that elevated TNF-α concentrations and lower BDNF concentrations in soldiers following intense military training were associated with decreases in marksmanship and cognitive function, respectively.
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Contributors All authors contributed significantly to the data collection and/or writing of the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Ethics approval The Institutional Review Board of the Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps approved this research study.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement Data will be available upon request.
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