BackgroundLower extremity stress fractures result in lost time from work and sport and incur costs in the military when they occur in service members. Hypovitaminosis D has been identified as key risk factor in these injuries. An estimated 33% to 90% of collegiate and professional athletes have deficient vitamin D levels. Other branches of the United States military have evaluated the risk factors for stress fractures during basic training, including vitamin D deficiency. To the best of our knowledge, a study evaluating the correlation between these injuries and vitamin D deficiency in US Navy recruits and a cost analysis of these injuries has not been performed. Cutbacks in military medical staffing mean more active-duty personnel are being deferred for care to civilian providers. Consequently, data that previously were only pertinent to military medical providers have now expanded to the nonmilitary medical community.Questions/purposesWe therefore asked: (1) What proportion of US Navy recruits experience symptomatic lower extremity stress fractures, and what proportion of those recruits had hypovitaminosis vitamin D on laboratory testing? (2) What are the rehabilitation costs involved in the treatment of lower extremity stress fractures, including the associated costs of lost training time? (3) Is there a cost difference in the treatment of stress fractures between recruits with lower extremity stress fractures who have vitamin D deficiency and those without vitamin D deficiency?MethodsWe retrospectively evaluated the electronic medical record at Naval Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, IL, USA, of all active-duty males and females trained from 2009 until 2015. We used ICD-9 and ICD-10 diagnosis codes to identify those diagnosed with symptomatic lower extremity stress fractures. Data collected included geographic region of birth, preexisting vitamin D deficiency, vitamin D level at the time of diagnosis, medical history, BMI, age, sex, self-reported race or ethnicity, hospitalization days, days lost from training, and the number of physical therapy, primary care, and specialty visits. To ascertain the proportion of recruits who developed symptomatic stress fractures, we divided the number of recruits who were diagnosed with a stress fracture by the total number who trained over that span of time, which was 204,774 individuals. During the span of this study, 45% (494 of 1098) of recruits diagnosed with a symptomatic stress fracture were female and 55% (604 of 1098) were male, with a mean ± SD age of 24 ± 4 years. We defined hypovitaminosis D as a vitamin D level lower than 40 ng/mL. Levels less than 40 ng/mL were defined as low normal and levels less than 30 ng/mL as deficient. Vitamin D levels were obtained at the discretion of the individual treating provider without standardization of protocol. Cost was defined as physical therapy visits, primary care visits, orthopaedic visits, diagnostic imaging costs, laboratory costs, hospitalizations, if applicable, and days lost from training. Diagnostic studies and laboratory tests were incorporated as indirect costs into initial and follow-up physical therapy visits. Evaluation and management code fee schedules for initial visits and follow-up visits were used as direct costs. We obtained these data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website. Per capita cost was calculated by taking the total cost and dividing it by the study population. Days lost from training is based on a standardized government military salary of recruits to include room and board.ResultsWe found that 0.5% (1098 of 204,774) of recruits developed a symptomatic lower extremity stress fracture. Of the recruits who had vitamin D levels drawn at the time of stress fracture, 95% (416 of 437 [95% confidence interval (CI) 94% to 98%]; p > 0.99) had hypovitaminosis D (≤ 40 ng/mL) and 82% (360 of 437 [95% CI 79% to 86%]; p > 0.99) had deficient levels (≤ 30 ng/mL) on laboratory testing, when evaluated. The total treatment cost was USD 9506 per recruit. Days lost in training was a median of 56 days (4 to 108) for a per capita cost of USD 5447 per recruit. Recruits with deficient vitamin D levels (levels ≤ 30 ng/mL) incurred more physical therapy treatment costs than did those with low-normal vitamin D levels (levels 31 to 40 ng/mL) (mean difference USD 965 [95% CI 2 to 1928]; p = 0.049).ConclusionThe cost of lost training and rehabilitation associated with symptomatic lower extremity stress fractures represents a major financial burden. Screening for and treatment of vitamin D deficiencies before recruit training could offer a cost-effective solution to decreasing the stress fracture risk. Recognition and treatment of these deficiencies has a role beyond the military, as hypovitaminosis and stress fractures are common in collegiate or professional athletes.Level of EvidenceLevel III, prognostic study.