Author Topic: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots  (Read 1345 times)

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Offline daftandbarmy

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Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots


The Canadian military is looking for ways to reduce the number of neck injuries seen in helicopter pilots, which is attributed partly to heavy equipment. But there is no quick fix for the costly concern.


https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/05/06/neck-pain-a-debilitating-problem-for-rcaf-helicopter-pilots.html
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Offline SeaKingTacco

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2018, 17:17:23 »
This is a fairly big deal and it is not just Griffon pilots who are affected.

I have seen very talented Pilots, ACSOs, and AESOPs rendered medically unable to continue flying because of neck injuries. I myself have had close calls on injury, hanging out the side of a Sea King at night with NVGs on, trying to do utility work.

Offline Loachman

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2018, 20:29:51 »
Flight Engineers are vulnerable, too - they sit on the crappy rag-and-tube seats,  move around the cabin a lot bent over or on their knees, lean out, lie on the floor to look underneath, and slide underneath (while on the ground) to hook up slung loads.

Brian Wicks was one of the Instructors on my Helicopter Instructor Course.

Offline SupersonicMax

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2018, 21:02:20 »
We have the same issues for similar reasons in fighter cockpits: heavy helmets, NVG and high-G.  Some almost died from it, some were grounded for life, some just gave up.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2018, 22:25:06 »
It's an infantry problem too, as discussed here: https://www.nap.edu/read/5436/chapter/13#212

But, unless you're parachuting, I'm guessing that the G forces involved are likely much less than in any kind of flying.
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Offline SeaKingTacco

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2018, 00:32:54 »
We have the same issues for similar reasons in fighter cockpits: heavy helmets, NVG and high-G.  Some almost died from it, some were grounded for life, some just gave up.

We had one of your guys come to fly Sea Kings after taking a neck injury on Hornets.  He is an awesome guy, but, funnily enough, the vibration in a helicopter did not improve things for his neck.

Offline Blackadder1916

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2018, 00:33:58 »
Has this become a greater problem in recent years than in years past?  By recent, I mean five, ten, fifteen, even twenty years.  I recall the issue being raised as something to prep for when I did my aeromedevac course a long, long, long time ago as well as seeing studies about it and it being mentioned by a couple of syndicate mates at Staff School (they were fighter pilots and our DS was a Hel type) in the mid 1980s.  It was even under close study by the US Army and Navy in the 80s/90s - two of my classmates at OAC at Fort Sam in 1990, one an Airevac pilot and the other an aerospace physiologist had a connection to studies being done out of Rucker at that time.  There was, supposedly, an exercise program that was to be implemented in the CF (1990s?).  Was this imposed or was it something that was only suggested as "available" to pilots?
« Last Edit: May 08, 2018, 00:41:56 by Blackadder1916 »
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Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2018, 01:05:59 »
Has this become a greater problem in recent years than in years past?  By recent, I mean five, ten, fifteen, even twenty years.  I recall the issue being raised as something to prep for when I did my aeromedevac course a long, long, long time ago as well as seeing studies about it and it being mentioned by a couple of syndicate mates at Staff School (they were fighter pilots and our DS was a Hel type) in the mid 1980s.  It was even under close study by the US Army and Navy in the 80s/90s - two of my classmates at OAC at Fort Sam in 1990, one an Airevac pilot and the other an aerospace physiologist had a connection to studies being done out of Rucker at that time.  There was, supposedly, an exercise program that was to be implemented in the CF (1990s?).  Was this imposed or was it something that was only suggested as "available" to pilots?

My guess is, as with most issues in the HR space these days, there are just not enough people compared to the glory days of the Baby Boom/Busters where we could pour loads of folks into the funnel knowing we would break a bunch of them ....
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Offline Jarnhamar

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2018, 06:23:44 »
I tried to get issued nvg counter weights.  Big fat no.

« Last Edit: May 08, 2018, 06:35:42 by Jarnhamar »
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Offline Good2Golf

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2018, 07:31:20 »
Has this become a greater problem in recent years than in years past?  By recent, I mean five, ten, fifteen, even twenty years.  I recall the issue being raised as something to prep for when I did my aeromedevac course a long, long, long time ago as well as seeing studies about it and it being mentioned by a couple of syndicate mates at Staff School (they were fighter pilots and our DS was a Hel type) in the mid 1980s.  It was even under close study by the US Army and Navy in the 80s/90s - two of my classmates at OAC at Fort Sam in 1990, one an Airevac pilot and the other an aerospace physiologist had a connection to studies being done out of Rucker at that time.  There was, supposedly, an exercise program that was to be implemented in the CF (1990s?).  Was this imposed or was it something that was only suggested as "available" to pilots?

Perhaps in isolated locations, but I had a targeted exercise program recommended to my by the Flight Surgeon back in the early-90s.  It was described to me that the best treatment was proactive condition, based greatly on the exercises that wrestlers do to strengthen neck muscles.  I always flew with a full 450gm counterweight, I preferred balance over weight.  Others flew with less (or no) counter-weight but a secondary 'anti-rotation' chin strap to keep the helmet from rotating forward.  That seemed to lead to more problems for many (sore jaw, still sore neck).

:2c:

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Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2018, 08:09:27 »
Do Tyson Neck Rolls:

https://youtu.be/7IXm3VumEHE

Iron Mike was a beast from these and had 20.5 inch neck.  Gave him what was essentially a plate of armour around his jaw line and spine that made him impossible to knock out.


Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2018, 08:54:52 »
Do Tyson Neck Rolls:

https://youtu.be/7IXm3VumEHE

Iron Mike was a beast from these and had 20.5 inch neck.  Gave him what was essentially a plate of armour around his jaw line and spine that made him impossible to knock out.

In my dim and distant past I was, amongst other things, a wrestler. 'Working on your neck' in a way that got good results took ages, and ages, and was a continuous, daily process. In wrestling, the strength requirements for your neck were related mainly to being able to push the other guy around after you had 'shot in' on his legs, so you could get behind him and gain control; a lateral movement related strength requirement without the need to account for G forces.

I'd find it hard to believe that anyone with a 'real job', like busy aircrew, could find enough time to build up and maintain their neck muscles to an extent that it would account for the effects of heavy, unbalanced headgear during long term wear and tear, or high G forces.
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Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2018, 09:24:46 »
In my dim and distant past I was, amongst other things, a wrestler. 'Working on your neck' in a way that got good results took ages, and ages, and was a continuous, daily process. In wrestling, the strength requirements for your neck were related mainly to being able to push the other guy around after you had 'shot in' on his legs, so you could get behind him and gain control; a lateral movement related strength requirement without the need to account for G forces.

I'd find it hard to believe that anyone with a 'real job', like busy aircrew, could find enough time to build up and maintain their neck muscles to an extent that it would account for the effects of heavy, unbalanced headgear during long term wear and tear, or high G forces.

The part in yellow is all too true D&B which is why the Military needs to get a far better grip of strength training and physical fitness than they presently have.  It literally takes years to build elite level physical strength and the gains that took years to build erode quickly in a matter of months without training. 

I personally think all Military Members should do a minimum of two training sessions a week that focus purely on strength.  Ideally a person would do three strength sessions a week but gains can still be made, albeit at a slower rate, with only two sessions.




Offline GAP

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2018, 09:47:45 »
Two observations....

Would not the same effects be felt by the infantry man/woman what with the helmet, NVG, etc....?

Have they ever approached the the idea of the shoulders/back muscles taking some of the strain but leaving the flexability?
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Offline Strike

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2018, 10:40:58 »
Has this become a greater problem in recent years than in years past?  By recent, I mean five, ten, fifteen, even twenty years.  I recall the issue being raised as something to prep for when I did my aeromedevac course a long, long, long time ago as well as seeing studies about it and it being mentioned by a couple of syndicate mates at Staff School (they were fighter pilots and our DS was a Hel type) in the mid 1980s.  It was even under close study by the US Army and Navy in the 80s/90s - two of my classmates at OAC at Fort Sam in 1990, one an Airevac pilot and the other an aerospace physiologist had a connection to studies being done out of Rucker at that time.  There was, supposedly, an exercise program that was to be implemented in the CF (1990s?).  Was this imposed or was it something that was only suggested as "available" to pilots?
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Offline HappyWithYourHacky

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2018, 10:53:06 »
Two observations....

Would not the same effects be felt by the infantry man/woman what with the helmet, NVG, etc....?

Have they ever approached the the idea of the shoulders/back muscles taking some of the strain but leaving the flexability?

Aircrew wears a helmet way more consistently and for longer periods than an infanteer so my guess would be no. Suppose there arealways exceptions though.

Offline GAP

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #16 on: May 08, 2018, 11:07:50 »
Aircrew wears a helmet way more consistently and for longer periods than an infanteer so my guess would be no. Suppose there arealways exceptions though.

You have never ground pounded have you...
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Offline Loch Sloy!

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #17 on: May 08, 2018, 11:17:12 »
Quote
I tried to get issued nvg counter weights.  Big fat no.

I use a strobe pouch on the back of my helmet with an MS200 in there when wearing night vision equipment. In a pinch I've also used a box of clipped C7 ammo and once even a flat rock jammed under my helmet band. A counter-weight makes a HUGE difference.

Also since consistently following a weight lifting program (rather than just cross-fit) I've had way less neck issues.
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Offline HappyWithYourHacky

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #18 on: May 08, 2018, 12:29:29 »
You have never ground pounded have you...

Sure have. Half my career was with 2VP. The other half was with SAR.

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #19 on: May 08, 2018, 12:57:05 »
You have never ground pounded have you...

The difference being that flying aircrew are sitting in a confined space for 2-6 hours (if not more depending on the msn and stby posture) with very little, if any chance, to move and stretch. So it tends to exacerbate any stress that is already being put on the muscles.  Add in the bad posture that we ALL have when we fly (even the FEs when they're sitting in the back) and it's a recipe for a shortened career.  Heck, imagine laying on your stomach with your head hanging out the door for most of a slinging flight, at night, with NVGs.  It is an unnatural position to hold for any amount of time and there is nothing that it can be compared to on the Army side.

No one is disputing that the ground guys aren't dealing with similar issues, but you certainly aren't carrying that gear (helmet, HUD*, NVGs* counterweight*) every single day of your career, whether deployed or not.  Aircrew have to wear that every day that they are flying which, for some, is Monday to Friday more than once a day.

*Equipment is dependent on msn and time of day flown obviously.
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Offline Blackadder1916

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #20 on: May 08, 2018, 14:06:34 »
For those who want a little background to the discussion:
Royal Canadian Air Force Neck- and Back-Trouble Research
A Historical Review   DRDC-RDDC-2016-D031 July 2016
http://cradpdf.drdc-rddc.gc.ca/PDFS/unc237/p804318_A1b.pdf

And to stir the pot a little in the aircrew vs combat arms sub-plot a little something from our neighbours to the south.
USARIEM TECHNICAL REPORT T06-01
A BASELINE HISTORICAL ANALYSIS OF NECK AND BACK-RELATED MORBIDITY IN THE U.S. ARMY: OCCUPATIONAL RISKS POTENTIALLY RELATED TO HEAD-SUPPORTED MASS

Quote
RESULTS
FREQUENCIES AND UNADJUSTED RATES OF NECK AND BACK INJURIES AND CONDITIONS

Table 5 displays the frequency of neck- and back-related conditions observed
during the study period, stratified by rank. During the study period there were a total of
1,257,878 back- or neck-related health encounters and/or disability-related diagnoses.
The vast majority (85%, N = 1,072,643) were for back-related conditions. However,
there were significant rank associations such that officers were relatively more likely
than enlisted to experience a neck injury versus back injury.
Thirteen and a half percent
of enlisted Soldier neck- and back-related encounters were related to neck problems,
while 23.5% of officer neck- and back-related injury encounters were for neck problems.
However, officers with acute neck injuries were more likely than enlisted with acute neck
injuries to be treated in an outpatient setting, suggesting officer neck injuries may be
less serious; 9.2% of enlisted with acute neck injuries were hospitalized compared to
3.4% of officers with acute neck injuries treated in either hospital or outpatient setting.

There is a lot more in the USARIEM report and the above highlighted excerpt is not to be construed as the conclusion.  If you can wade through the statistics, it may be of interest to anyone who wants a more in-depth analysis of the problem.
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Offline Blackadder1916

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Re: Neck pain a debilitating problem for RCAF helicopter pilots
« Reply #21 on: May 08, 2018, 14:25:41 »
And the potential for increased neck/back problems due to posture and vibration stress may not be limited to aircraft activities.

Effects of vehicle-ride exposure on cervical pathology: a meta-analysis
https://www.jniosh.go.jp/en/indu_hel/doc/IH_53_3_197.pdf

Quote
Abstract: Research to date on the effect vehicle-ride exposure has on the development of cervical
pathologies in mounted Warfighters is conflicting. The purpose of this study was to determine if
the literature suggests a definite effect of vehicle-ride exposure on cervical pathology.
Databases
were searched using multiple combinations of select terms. Twelve studies meeting the inclusion
criteria were included in the meta-analysis. The results of the meta-analysis revealed that overall
vehicle-ride exposure was likely to increase cervical pathology (p=0.01, odds ratio=1.59, 95%
CI=1.16−2.17). Using vehicle type as a moderator it was found that vehicle-ride exposure in ground based
vehicles (p=0.01, odds ratio=2.33, 95% CI=1.41−3.85) and fixed-wing aircraft (p=0.01, odds
ratio =1.59, 95% CI=1.13−2.23) were likely to increase cervical pathology. Using operator/other
personnel moderator it was found that in the populations tested, fighter pilots or fighter jet weapons
systems operators were more likely to develop a cervical pathology (p<0.001, odds ratio=1.78,
95% CI=1.26−2.50). The available studies indicate an increase in cervical pathology for personnel
exposed to ground-based vehicles
and fixed-wing aircraft.
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