49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Through the My Cause My Cleats campaign, every NFL player can show what they stand for. The campaign gives them the option to choose a special cause or organization to represent on a pair of custom-designed cleats. So far, dozens of players have decked out their shoes for a good cause. Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp chose to support Forever Found, an organization battling child trafficking. Two Rams players decorated their shoes with the logo of the Special Olympics. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson chose to honor George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Herbert Hightower and Charleena Lyles with his cleats. 

Now, 49ers TE has elected to honor the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. 

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, better known as TAPS, is a non-profit dedicated to those who lost a love one in military service to America. The program was founded in 1994 by Bonnie Carroll, in memory of her late husband who died in a plane crash with seven others. For nearly 25 years, TAPS has worked to offer ongoing support to military survivors. 

Services include crisis response and assistance, peer-based emotional counseling, casualty casework assistance, and other grief and trauma resources. TAPS also hosts a national annual grief seminar in D.C. with three full days of grief management workshops. 

George Kittle has always been proud of his country. Now he’s proud to support those who serve.

The new cleats, designed by Marcus Rivero, AKA Soles by Sir, include numerous shoutouts to America’s armed forces. They include the TAPS logo, the logos for all five military branches, and Kittle’s signature number 85. They also feature a shoutout to significant military figures from his own life. His Uncle, Colonel Pat Coen, served several deployments in the Army National Guard, and his close friend, Rico Hogan, still serves in the Navy. He also wanted the design to honor the LaMar family. Army Sgt. Martin “Mick” LaMar was killed in action in 2011, so George, in partnership with USAA’s #SaluteToService campaign, gave the family tickets to Super Bowl LIV to pay his respects.

Photo by San Francisco 49ers

The video below by USAA captures the story behind the shoes and offers a behind-the-scenes look at the custom cleat design process.

To learn more about TAPS, donate a holiday wreath, or apply to volunteer, visit https://www.taps.org/.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How this combat vet became a 33-year-old walk-on

U.S. Army veteran Joshua Griffin trained with Rangers and Green Berets and saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan during his 13 years of military service. Then he decided to become an officer, join ROTC, and play college football.

The Staff Sergeant is now the oldest player in the country on a major college football team.

The 33-year-old walk-on is in his second season at Colorado State University and he credits his military service with much of his success.


Army Veteran Becomes Oldest College Football Player | NBC Nightly News

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Tom Ehlers, CSU’s director of football ops, was impressed with Griffin from the start.

First of all, Griffin cold-called Ehlers in person. At 5’10” and 208 lbs, Griffin certainly looked the part.

More than that, Ehlers quickly realized that “Griffin’s military background could be useful on a young football team in need of leadership.” The problem was that Griffin didn’t have any footage of himself playing — or even the SAT or ACT scores needed to qualify for college attendance.

Still, he was persistent — another skill courtesy of the United States Army. He was finally invited to the walk-on tryouts.

The term walk-on is used to describe an athlete who earns a place on the team without being recruited or, in the case of college football, awarded an athletic scholarship.

Griffin drilled alone in the weeks before tryouts after watching the team practice.

“I would study what the coaches had them doing during individuals and then after practice I would go to these fields right here and I would do exactly what they would do,” he told ESPN.

He was one of three who made the team.

Griffin was attached to the 10th Special Forces and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment while on active duty. His wartime experiences included 2½ years of service overseas — and he still carries unseen scars with him, including hypervigilance and trouble sleeping.

But he carries the brotherhood with him, too. The players, most of whom are a decade younger than Griffin, look up to him — a fact noticed by the coaching staff, who made him one of ten accountability leaders for the team.

“He’s a great example of what soldiers are like out there,” said Lt. Col. Troy Thomas, the professor of military science who runs CSU’s Army ROTC program.”…When you support people through their goals, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. We’ve been able to support Josh while he gets an education and plays athletics. I suspect great things for him in the future.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

This 5-minute workout will get you fit fast

You make your best effort to pick up the kettlebells or go for a run as often as you can, but there are those days (or, let’s face it, weeks), when you can barely make it home in time for dinner, let alone heading out to a workout class. The thing is, your body doesn’t care where you sweat. And to a certain extent, it doesn’t care how long you sweat for. Sure, a 30-minute bodyweight workout burns more calories than 10, but research suggests even just a handful of minutes a day devoted to elevating your heart rate can have measurable results.

A University of Utah study, for instance, found that people who exercised less than 10 minutes but at a high intensity had a lower BMI than those who worked out for more than 10 minutes at moderate intensity. And a report in the medical journal Obesity found that people who split an hour of daily exercise into 5-minute chunks were better able to control their appetite and eating compared to those who did a traditional-length workout.


So how do you work out in 5 minutes? What you need is a super-intense, Tabata-style routine that pushes your heart rate through the roof and makes your muscles beg for mercy by the time five minutes is up. We’ve got you covered with this all-in workout.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

(Photo by Sam Knight)

The ultimate 5-minute bodyweight workout

Start with a brief warmup (stretch arms overhead, touch your toes, open legs wide and lower into a gentle squat, stand and twist right, then left).

Minute 1: Jump rope as fast as you can for 50 seconds. Rest 10.

Minute 2: Run in place as fast as you can (like a lineman drill), raising your knees so high you hit your chest for 50 seconds. Rest 10.

Minute 3: Drop and do 20 pushups; flip and do 20 situps; flip and do 20 hand-clap pushups (push off floor with enough force that you can clap hands together in the air between reps).

Minute 4: Squat jumps for 15 seconds (squat and jump in the air vertically, landing back in a squat); box jumps for 15 seconds (stand in front of a sturdy bench or chair, bend knees and spring up onto it, then jump back down); squat jumps again for 20 seconds. Rest 10.

Minute 5: 15 burpees in 30 seconds; 30 jumping jacks in 30 seconds.

Grab some water and take a short walk when you’re done to allow your heart rate a few minutes to return to normal.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

12 of the best football party foods, ranked

Fall is definitely a sports season. Baseball season wraps up with the World Series, hockey and basketball are just getting started, and football season is in full swing. The odds are good that, at some point, you’re going to either throw or at least be part of a sports party. Whether you like sports or not, you still like your friends and will probably want to join them.

What to bring to that party is, however, an important decision — especially if you don’t know sports, because you want to get invited to the next one.


With this simple decision, you can either turn yourself into a party snack legend by going the extra mile or you can ensure that you’ll never be invited again and irreparably damage the personal relationships you’ve built with people who thought you were their friend until you proved otherwise with that terrible thing you brought.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Note: This list is just for snack foods. Just because something didn’t make the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it. Nearly any party will also accept finger-food desserts, like brownies, cupcakes, and Jell-O shots.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Who puts okra on a cheese plate?

12. Cheese Plates

How to win: A cheese plate is an easy crowd-pleaser. Add some crackers, some cold cuts, and a few grapes for effect and you’re good to go. No one ever objects to a cheese plate. Be advised: Blue cheese is for wings, not cheese plates. That stuff smells like feet.

How to be a legend: Upgrade the cheeses from your standard cheddar, colby, and pepperjack. Get some real cheeses in there. We’re talking brie, gruyere, and fresh mozzarella. Spring for better crackers. Ditch the cold cuts and make all those meats prosciutto.

How to lose: Fried cheese sticks. You know this game is three hours long, right? If you aren’t deep-frying them at the party, there’s no way to win by bringing these. Ever see fried cheese sticks after they’ve been sitting out for an hour? Not pretty.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

French Onion dip is the easiest thing to make on this list. At least make it yourself.

11. Chips & Dip

How to win: Even if you only brought a tub of sour cream with a packet of french onion seasoning mixed in, you already won. Even if no one actually puts this on a plate, almost everyone will have at least one chip with dip. And no one will feel like they should save it when there are leftovers.

How to be a legend: Make your own layered dip that doesn’t involve packets of seasoning. Pro tip: the more layers, the better. Yeah, you could make a 35-layer dip, but if you’re feeling really saucy, why not make a 50-layer dip?

How to lose: Kale chips.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

If they’re mushy, we hate you.

10. Potato Skins

How to win: Proper potato skins have crispy shells and don’t skimp on the cheese and bacon. I don’t actually want big chunks of mushy potato in my mouth. That’s not what I signed up for.

How to be a legend: More meat. Every time. Maybe add a little spice to kick up the bland potato parts. Buffalo chicken potato skins are always a winner. Maybe some sriracha. Maybe even twice bake them.

How to lose: Bring a bag of Friday’s Potato Skins chips. C’mon, man.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

It’s entirely likely both of these ingredients came from a can. Amazing.

9. Pigs in a Blanket

How to win: Bring all-beef junior franks wrapped in crispy golden-brown dough. Brush on melted butter for extra effect. Even your friend who swears they don’t eat processed food is going to sneak one or two.

How to be a legend: Bratwurst in pretzel dough.

How to lose: Someone once told me that anything wrapped in dough is a surefire winner, then I discovered Spanakopita. If you bring spinach wrapped in dough to my football party, I’ll know we aren’t friends.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Bringing sub sandwich ingredients not in sandwich form will get you ejected from the party.

8. Party Subs

How to Win: Sandwiches are the closest thing to an entree anyone should bring to a sports party. From cold cuts to po’boys, they will be the unofficial main course on everyone’s plate.

How to be a legend: Tie the sub to the favorite team in the night’s game. If you’re watching the Steelers or Penguins, get some french fries and make a Primanti Brothers sandwich. For the Bills or Sabres, Beef on weck. Watching the Saints or Pelicans? Make a Muffuletta. You get the idea.

How to lose: Bringing Sloppy Joes or Manwiches. Those sandwiches are about as appetizing as their names make them sound.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Literally anything.

7. Bacon-Wrapped Anything

How to win: The best part of this is that you get to mix up everyone’s expectations and bring something memorable. Bacon-wrapped pork medallions with little toothpicks are a surefire winner. Bacon-wrapped scallops are a classic. Even bringing bacon-wrapped bacon will be good for a laugh — and people will still want it.

How to be a legend: Get some cheese in there, too. Everyone likes bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers. Everyone.

How to lose: Anything where the bacon ends up served cold. Desserts. Salad bowls. Bacon needs to be served hot and crisp.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

If these aren’t actually soft, then we’re not actually friends.

6. Soft Pretzels

How to win: It’s important to emphasize that we’re talking about soft pretzels here. Not a bag of hard, sourdough pretzels. Those are for when I’m drinking all the leftover Bud Light later because the Bengals blew their playoff win with less than a minute left on the game clock.

How to be a legend: The pretzels are the easy part. What you’re going to bring is extra salt and an assortment of dipping sauces for everyone to enjoy with their pretzels – hot cheese, stone ground mustard, and pizza sauce are just the beginning.

How to lose: Few things in life are worse than picking up a warm pretzel, expecting to sink your teeth into its soft, buttery flesh and finding out it’s rock hard, either because it’s stale, old, or wasn’t cooked properly. Do your due diligence.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

If it’s DiGiorno, you better have a good reason.

5. Pizza

How to win: Everyone loves a fresh, hot slice. Your best bet is to come with one cooked and ready and have a prepared, uncooked one ready to heat up mid-game. Coordinate with your host.

How to be a legend: Individual calzones.

How to lose: If you put pineapple on a pizza meant for a group, you’re a sadist. Some people hate that. If you dip it in milk, you might as well be ISIS.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

The only item on the list that is acceptable in its deconstructed form.

4. Street Tacos

How to win: Your biggest problem will be that some people will expect flour tortillas and/or cheese when we all know real street tacos have neither. It’s fine; bring both. This is America.

How to be a legend: Bring a spit and carve off some al pastor filling for you and your friends. No one will ever be able to forget you. Make a day of it.

How to lose: Forgetting the pickled onions.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Extra credit for King’s Hawaiian buns.

3. Sliders 

How to win: It’s hard to go wrong with tiny cheeseburgers, my dude.

How to be a legend: Imagine the best burger you’ve ever had. Was it made with lamb? Wagyu or kobe beef? Did it have an amazing cheese component? Think of the veggies – pickles, arugula, tomatoes, onions, caramelized onions… the sky is the limit. Whatever made it so good, make a ton of those for your friends. Grab a few Beyond Meat patties for your vegetarian friends.

How to lose: Everyone will eat turkey burger sliders if you bring them, but many will resent you for it.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Blue Cheese still smells like feet but is an expected condiment here.

2. Wings

How to win: I know, everyone’s probably wondering how wings ended up at #2 on a ranking of football foods. I love a good wing as much as anyone. While they’re still tops, they’re not the top. They’re just expected at a football party these days and when was the last time you heard anyone say, “oh, you have Buffalo Wings?! I love these!”

How to be a legend: Bring a bunch of different flavors, outside of ‘hot’ and ‘mild.’ You should always bring the classics (because everyone expects them) but nowadays, there’s so much everyone wants to try on a chicken wing: lemon pepper, Old Bay seasoning, spicy ginger, and so on.

How to lose: If you brought a bunch of crazy flavors and neglected to bring hot and/or mild, everyone is just going to ask for hot or mild. When you tell them you only brought garlic parmesan, they’re going to look down and just say “oh.” They’re looking down because delivering any respect to your face is going to be difficult in that moment.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Admit it.

1. Ribs 

How to win: If I went to a football party and someone brought a legit racks of ribs, they’ll be invited to every party I ever throw until the end of time.

How to be a legend: You brought ribs, buddy. You ARE a legend.

How to lose: McRibs.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Former Army Ranger crushes world record for pullups in a day

When one pushes their body to its most extreme limit, they find that they are simultaneously pushing their mind and spirit. Few are more familiar with this feeling than Brandon Tucker — a U.S. Army Ranger veteran who climbed his way to becoming a squad leader in the 3rd Ranger Battalion. When he was medically discharged due to inflammatory bowel disease, his sense of purpose and drive was not deterred. He dove headfirst into the fitness and business world by managing Uncommon Athlete in Columbus, Georgia, while also serving as a personal trainer and fitness instructor there.

As a testament to his dedication to fitness, on Oct. 26, 2019, Tucker surpassed the world record for number of pullups in a day. The feat is currently undergoing the verification process with Guinness World Records. Tucker completed 7,715 pullups in the span of 24 hours, beating the previous record of 7,600 by a significant margin.


Coffee or Die recently spoke to Tucker about his achievement.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Tucker served in D Co, 3/75 from 2011 to 2018.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)

“I was so glad to be done — I was having doubts when I had around 5,000 pullups because up to that point, I had only done 4,300 in my training. That took me 14 hours,” Tucker said. “Once I hit 5,000 on game day, I started having all these doubts. It was new ground — I didn’t know if I was going to hit a wall, hit a second wind … I wasn’t sure. My muscles were failing, my hands were blistered … it was painful, man. I had two pairs of gloves on, and I had on these leather cowhide pieces under those. My hands still felt like I had stuck them on a stovetop … But I just had to stay on course.”

Tucker said he repeated a mantra to himself for motivation: “Three pullups every 30 seconds. Three pullups every 30 seconds.” If he felt good, he would try for four every 30 seconds to create a buffer.

“Your body is amazing when you have the mind to work it and push it,” he said.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

In training, Tucker would do over 1,000 pull ups a day.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)

Tucker’s road to the pullup bar was not an easy one. Prior to being medically discharged, Tucker’s mother was killed in a car accident. This hit Tucker hard, but she remained a source of inspiration for him after her passing, just as she had been when she was alive.

“My mom saw so much potential in me, and I never really saw it myself. I used her faith in me to literally pull myself upward,” Tucker said. “We’re so quick to be victims of our circumstances. We naturally want to find all these excuses as to why we can’t do something, instead of just saying, ‘You know what? I’m just going to go do this.’ I’ve never trained for something like I trained for these pullups. I’ve never put this amount of discipline into training, recovery, all of that.”

On most training days, Tucker would do 1,000 pullups. He found himself truly understanding the value of recovery and discovered the need to be disciplined in that regard just as he was disciplined in every other area of his training.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

During the event, Tucker repeated the mantra “Three pullups every 30 seconds, three pullups every 30 seconds.”

(Photo by Matt McQuire Photo.)

Technically speaking, Tucker’s pullup record is still filed as an “attempt.” He is currently in the verification process with the Guiness Book of World Records, a process that is now past the submission stage and into the verification stage.

This is not a straightforward process; Guinness requires a host of verifications, witnesses, and documentation to qualify. Prior to the day of the event, Tucker’s mind had to be honed and focused on the training portion — he needed help with the logistics of the event itself.

This is where Tucker’s military family stepped in — particularly Mary Kubik, Gold Star sister of fallen Army Ranger Ronald Kubik (KIA April 2010). Not only did she help him find someone to set up the two verification cameras, coordinate the witnesses, and keep log sheets, she also helped him come up with a list of charities they felt were worthy of support.

Tucker’s GoFundMe donations will help support Rescue 22, Warrior Fortitude, Darby’s Warrior Support, Warrior Outreach Inc., Achilles International – Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, and Higher Ground USA.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

“This is what I’m passionate about. It’s what I like to do.”

(Photo by Matt McQuire Photo.)

Three days before Tucker attempted to break the world record, he reached out to the previous world record holder, John Orth. Tucker had heard Orth on a podcast, and he had found it incredibly motivating. He wasn’t sure how Orth would take being contacted by the person trying to break his record, but Tucker sent him a message on Instagram anyway.

Not only was Orth receptive, but he was eager to give Tucker encouragement and some practical tips as well. At the time, Tucker was planning on moving forward with a single pair of gloves. Orth immediately told him to have 10 pairs of gloves and make sure they were kept dry.

“Had I not reached out to him, I probably would have failed,” Tucker said. “He’s an awesome guy, he was all about helping me.”

That spirit inspired a similar attitude in Tucker. “Now that I’ve done it, I’m not worried about someone breaking [the record],” he said. “I want someone to break it.”

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Tucker left the military as a Ranger squad leader.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)

When asked what his plans are after the verification process is complete, Tucker said he plans to continue focusing on his health and fitness.

“I am sick,” Tucker said. “I do have this disease that I get treated for every eight weeks. I struggled after I got out [of the Army], but now this thing has lit a fire inside me. I don’t know what’s next, but I want to see what I’m capable of with this body and my mind. If it’s fitness related and I can’t do it, it’s my own fault. I’m surrounded by the coaches, the gyms, the nutrition coaches — I have all the tools.”

He also expressed a desire to continue to see Uncommon Athlete grow and thrive. The “multipurpose fitness training facility,” as their website describes, has operated just outside of Fort Benning, Georgia, since 2011.

“I think we all have a calling,” Tucker said. “We all have that voice that whispers to us. For me, I’ve always had this voice about fitness and competing. My mom would always say it and I’d always tell myself — but I’d be too scared to act on it and really put myself out there.

“Listen to that voice, and just try it. If it doesn’t work, then just move on to the next objective. Don’t get stuck because you don’t know where to go. You know where to go — listen to the voice in your head. Life is all about choices. You can either settle, or you can continue to fight and go for what you want.”

This Is What It’s Like to Run the Darby Queen Obstacle Course

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

16 facts you never knew about the American flag

It’s time to get out your stars and stripes – it’s Flag Day! June 14, 1777, is the date that Congress officially chose the design for our flag, and Americans have been pledging their allegiance to it ever since. While you’ll only get the day off work if you live in Pennsylvania, the state where the flag originated, the holiday’s history and meaning are important to know. Whether you’re reading this on Flag Day or any other day, these facts are fun enough to learn all year long.


49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

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1. Betsy Ross may not be the flag’s real designer

Betsy Ross is often cited as the designer of the first American Flag, but we have little evidence to support that claim. Her grandson presented statements by his own family in 1870, but beyond that, there’s no proof. Some historians want to transfer the credit to Francis Hopkinson, who was named as the flag’s designer in journals from the Continental Congress.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

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2. The celebration of the flag was invented by a teacher

In 1885, a 19-year-old teacher named Bernard J. CiGrand asked his class to write an essay on the symbolism of our flag. He spent the following half-century trying to make Flag Day a national holiday.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

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3. There have been 27 official versions of the American flag

On the American flag, the stripes represent the 13 original colonies, while the stars represent each state. Since there weren’t always 50 states, there weren’t always 50 stars. Each flag was similar, but with a different number of stars. If you visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, you can see the remnants of the 15-star, 15-stripe flag that inspired the national anthem.

4. The colors of the flag have important meanings

Red, white and blue were chosen to represent, respectively, valor, liberty and purity. The colors also have specific names; “Old Glory Blue,” “Old Glory Red”, and white. Just plain white.

5. The current version of the flag was designed by a student

In 1949, 17-year-old Robert G. Heft created an updated flag for a class project, and the poor kid only got a B-. Luckily, that didn’t dissuade him. He submitted his idea to President Eisenhower when Alaska and Hawaii gained statehood. Our of over 1500 submissions, his design was chosen.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

6. The flag has rules of its own. Lots of them.

According to the U.S. Flag Code:

– The flag shouldn’t be flown in bad weather.
– It should be raised and lowered slowly.
– No other flags should be placed above it.
– When flags from two or more nations are flown, they should rest on separate poles at the same height. They should also be about the same size.
– It must be flown at every school and during all school days.
– If flown at night, the flag should be illuminated.
– Flags can be burned if they become damaged and can no longer be flown.
– And many more.

7. You can’t sign your name on it

Despite what flag-signing politicians would have you believe, The Flag Code strictly prohibits adding any markings or drawings to the flag.

8. … or put it on a t-shirt

Every 4th of July, half the country is decked out in stars and stripes. As it turns out, we’re not really supposed to do that. The Flag Code actually specifies that the Stars and Stripes should never be used on clothing, bedding, or decorations. Considering how much Americans love our flag merch, that’s one rule we’ll probably keep breaking for a long, long time.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

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9. Flying a flag upside down isn’t necessarily disrespectful

At least not in the way you’re thinking of. An upside-down flag isn’t usually a signal of protest, rather, it’s a signal of distress. On your next cruise, if you see someone frantically waving an upside-down flag on a nearby island, he’s probably not a rebel. He’s stranded.

10. Burning a flag isn’t technically illegal

Historically, unlike flying a flag upside down, burning the flag WAS done as an act of protest. The Flag Protection Act of 1968 made this illegal, but the act was revoked 20 years later. The Supreme Court ruled that the government couldn’t limit citizens’ First Amendment rights, making it legal to do whatever you want to a flag with no legal consequences.

11. Indestructible flags exist

Historically, enemies of the United States have burned or defaced our flag to make a statement. (That’s why messing with the flag is a really, really bad idea, even if it’s not illegal!) To protect defaced flags from being used as a propaganda tool by enemies, a Green Beret veteran has designed an all but indestructible flag. Made out of kevlar and Nomex, the new materials ensure the flag can’t be burned or torn while still allowing it to fly naturally. Here’s how to order your Firebrand Flag today (and the first 150 WATM readers to order get off and free shipping – a additional savings!)

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

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12. Using the American flag in burial ceremonies isn’t just for veterans

While draping the flag over the coffins of government officials and veterans is common practice, it’s not their exclusive right. Anyone can adopt this tradition if they like it!

13. Old Glory was the nickname of a specific American flag 

We now refer to any ol’ flag as Old Glory, but that wasn’t always the case. It started with a sea captain named William Driver, who nicknamed the flag on his ship “Old Glory” when he saw it flying on his ship’s mast back in 1831. It was such a good nickname that it stuck for good.

14. After 9/11 we held our flag a little closer

National tragedies are known for bringing our country together. According to Karen Burke of Walmart’s Corporate Communications, their stores sold 115,000 flags on September 11, 2001, compared to only 6,400 flags in 2000. In the following year, they sold a whopping 7.8 million US flags- around triple the sales of the previous year.

15. There are 6 American flags on the moon

…but only 5 are standing. Over the course of many moon expeditions, six US flags have been planted. The wind generated by the landing and takeoff of a shuttle, however, dislodged the original flag placed there by Neil Armstrong during the first-ever moon landing.

16. ‘Gilligan’s Island’ directors respected the flag.

During the opening sequence of the first season of the show, the American flag is filmed at half-staff. This was done to honor President Kennedy, who was assassinated the day the pilot episode was filmed.

You don’t have to walk to the moon to honor our flag. Kick off the Flag Day festivities by learning how to properly fold a flag, learn more about its history, or try one of these tasty, patriotic treats!

Which fact was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

MIGHTY SPORTS

Southwestern Athletic Conference names USAA Official Military Appreciation Partner

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and USAA have entered into a new sponsorship agreement making USAA the Official Military Appreciation Partner of the SWAC. As part of the agreement, USAA will have exclusive rights in the property and casualty insurance, banking, and life insurance categories. USAA’s sponsorship extends to the SWAC eSports league, and Football and Basketball conferences as the Official Insurance Partner of the SWAC serving military families.
  
“We’re extremely excited to welcome USAA to our family of sponsors,” said SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland. “SWAC member institutions have a long and proud history of providing students with a wide range of educational, professional, and career opportunities within all branches of the United States Armed Forces. Several of our campuses currently offer ROTC programs while also serving as a significant recruiting base for the United States Military as a whole.”
 
As part of the sponsorship agreement, USAA will lead military appreciation efforts, as well as offer career advancement opportunities, extending to both students and alumni.
 
“USAA’s mission to support military and their families comes with the knowledge that the military community reflects the diversity of our own nation,” said Michael Dones, USAA Assistant Vice President, Brand Programs and Sponsorships. “By supporting the SWAC, one of the nation’s premiere HBCU conferences, we are demonstrating our commitment to serve this community, creating memorable military appreciation moments, conducting community outreach, and providing professional development, job and internship opportunities for students and alumni.”
 
“This partnership will have a positive impact on student-athletes who compete in football, basketball and eSports, and all students attending a SWAC member institution,” continued McClelland. “For decades, USAA has unconditionally supported the proud men and women that selflessly serve our country and we’re extremely excited to join those efforts. We look forward to a long and productive partnership.”  


 
About USAA
The USAA family of companies provides insurance, banking, investments, retirement products and advice to nearly 13 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving our nation in the U.S. military or have received a discharge type of Honorable – and their eligible family members. Founded in 1922, USAA is headquartered in San Antonio. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.
 

About the SWAC
The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) is considered one of the premier HBCU conferences in the country and currently ranks among the elite in the nation in terms of HBCU alumni playing with professional sports teams. 
 
Current championship competition offered by the league includes competition for men in Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field and Tennis. 
 
Women’s competition is offered in the sports of Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Golf, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field, Soccer, Softball, Tennis and Volleyball. 
 
Follow the SWAC
For complete coverage of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, please follow the SWAC on social media at @TheSWAC (Twitter), @TheSWAC (Facebook), and @TheSWAC (Instagram) or visit the official home of the Southwestern Athletic Conference at www.swac.org.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army-Navy Game saw the first use of Instant Replay

In the fourth quarter of the 1963 Army-Navy game, Army’s “Rollie” Stichweh faked a handoff and ran in the endzone for Army’s final touchdown against Navy for that contest. The touchdown didn’t change the outcome of a 21-15 loss for Army. What was special about it was the broadcast for the viewers at home.

CBS play-by-play commentator Lindsey Nelson had to tell people watching that Army didn’t score twice – they were watching the future of sports television.


In the days before the Super Bowl was the game that brought America together for TV Sports’ biggest day, the game that brought everyone to their televisions was the Army-Navy Game. In December 1963, the Army-Navy Game was airing just days after the assassination of President Kennedy shocked Americans to the core. And CBS Director Tony Verna brought a 1,300-pound behemoth of a machine to use for his broadcast.

Millions were watching, and this monster was either going to make or break the young director’s career. Nelson was worried that the new technology might confuse people. So was Verna.

“There was the uncertainty about this game,” says Jack Ford, a correspondent for CBS News. “How is it gonna be played? How are fans going to react to this?”

In those days, replay technology still took up to 15 minutes to get ready, far too long to rehash an individual football play. Verna’s machine would be able to do it in 15 seconds when and if it worked. What happened during the game play was not as Verna had hoped. The machine mostly saw static, and when it did replay plays, there was a double exposure from what the crew had taped over, which was an old episode of I Love Lucy. As a result, Lucille Ball’s face could be seen on the field during the replays.

But when it came down to it, Verna’s machine did work, just in time to catch Army’s last touchdown of the game. It was the only time fans saw the instant replay during that game, but it was revolutionary. One of the Dallas Cowboys’ big executives, Tex Schramm, called Verna to congratulate him.

“He told me the significance of it, that I hadn’t confused anybody, which Lindsay and I were worried about, certainly me,” Verna told NPR later in life. “And he said, ‘You didn’t confuse anybody. It has great possibilities.’ “

MIGHTY SPORTS

Here’s why China and the NBA are coming to blows over a tweet

The NBA and China are locked in an escalating feud sparked by a tweet that voiced support for protests in Hong Kong.

For over 18 weeks, millions of people in Hong Kong have taken to the streets for increasingly violent protests. Initially, protests centered around a proposed bill that would have allowed for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to China to face trial. Now, demonstrations have ballooned into a fight against police brutality and Chinese encroachment on the semi-autonomous city.

Though the bill has since been withdrawn, protests continue and have recently seen a spike in violent clashes between police and protesters as China marked its 70th anniversary on Oct. 1, 2019. The topic of Hong Kong protests remains a sensitive issue for China, and China has been known to take harsh action against companies that so much as reference its domestic affairs or appear to threaten its authority.


As described by The New York Times, basketball is China’s most popular sport, with a market representing hundreds of millions of fans. According to CNBC, more than 640 million people in China watched the 2017-2018 NBA season.

On Oct. 11, 2019, Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted out an image which voiced support for protests in Hong Kong. In the days following, Chinese leagues, streaming services, sponsors, and partners, have cut ties with the Rockets and the NBA.

Here’s everything you need to know about the feud, from the initial tweet to the escalating backlash.

On Oct. 4, 2019, Morey tweeted out an image that voiced support for a protest group in Hong Kong.

In the since-deleted tweet, Morey posted the symbol of Stand With Hong Kong, an activist group that has been behind calls for foreign government intervention in Hong Kong.

The tweet immediately prompted backlash from Chinese social-media users, who targeted his account with angry messages and calls for his firing.

In response to the backlash, Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Rockets, addressed the controversy on Oct. 5, 2019.

Seeking to do damage control, Fertitta distanced the team and its shareholders from Morey’s statement.

“Listen….@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets,” he wrote.

He later defended Morey on ESPN, saying that he had “best general manager in the league” but that Rockets had “no political position.”

On Oct. 6, 2019, the Chinese Basketball Association, which represents China in the International Basketball Federation, announced it was halting cooperation with the Rockets in response to the tweet.

The CBA’s president is Yao Ming, the former NBA All-Star who played for the Rockets from 2002 to 2011.

“The Chinese Basketball Association strongly disagrees with the improper remarks by Daryl Morey, and has decided to suspend exchanges and cooperation with the team,” the CBA said in a statement on its official account on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

Several of the Rocket’s sponsors and partners announced that they would no longer broadcast games.

State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) and the livestreaming platform Tencent Sports, announced on Sunday that they would no longer broadcast Rockets games.

Tencent Holdings represents the NBA’s largest digital partner outside the US. It struck a deal in July to stream games and other league programming in China reported to be worth id=”listicle-2640934493″.5 billion.

The Chinese consulate in Houston said in a statement that it was “deeply shocked” by what it described as Morey’s “erroneous comments on Hong Kong.”

“We have lodged representations and expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Houston Rockets, and urged the latter to correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact,” the statement said.

On Sunday evening, the NBA responded and called the tweet “regrettable.”

Morey on Sunday responded to the firestorm on Twitter, saying his views did not necessarily reflect those of the NBA or the Rockets.

The NBA also issued a statement:

“While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league supports individuals educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,” the statement read.

On Oct. 7, 2019, Democrat and Republican lawmakers hit back over the NBA’s ‘shameful’ response to Chinese backlash.

Some lawmakers came out in support of Morey and criticized the NBA for distancing themselves from the league manager.

“As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of protesters in Hong Kong,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said on Twitter on Monday.

“Now, in pursuit of $, the @NBA is shamefully retreating.”

Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey slammed the NBA for “apologizing” to China.

“And the #NBA, which (correctly) has no problem with players/employees criticizing our govt, is now apologizing for criticizing the Chinese gov’t,” Malinowski tweeted. “This is shameful and cannot stand.”

The NBA issued another statement on Oct. 8, 2019. This time, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would not “censor” players or team owners.

“The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say,” Silver said in a statement. “We simply could not operate that way.”

“I do know there are consequences from freedom of speech; we will have to live with those consequences,” he added. “For those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.”

Following Morey’s statement, Chinese broadcasters said they would stop broadcasting NBA games.

“Any speech challenging a country’s national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech,” CCTV said in its announcement that it would be halting all broadcasts of NBA preseason games.

Silver responded by calling the move “unfortunate.”

Tencent Sports followed the measure and issued a statement saying that it would temporarily stop showing all NBA preseason games.

Fans have since weighed in on the controversy. On Tuesday, fans began showing up to games with T-shirts and signs voicing support for Hong Kong.

At the Philadelphia 76ers exhibition game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, two fans were escorted out of the arena after holding up signs and cheering in support of the protests.

The 76ers responded in a statement, saying the protesters caused a “disruption” and were at the center of “multiple complaints from guests.” Wells Fargo Center said the two were given “three separate warnings” for “disrupting the live event experience.”

On Wednesday, some NBA fans at the Washington Wizards vs. Guangzhou Loong-Lions game in Washington wore “Free Hong Kong” T-shirts and holding protest signs said their signs were confiscated.

On Oct. 9, 2019, all of the NBA’s official Chinese partners cut ties.

All of the companies on the NBA’s list of wholly-owned Chinese sponsors had suspended ties with the league as of Wednesday, according to CNN Business. Those businesses included CTrip, China’s biggest online travel website, and the Chinese fast-food chain Dicos.

On Wednesday, promotional material for a preseason game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers was removed from buildings across Shanghai.

Meet-and-greets and media events were also postponed, an NBA spokeswoman said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The game went on as scheduled on Thursday.

On Oct. 10, 2019, a reporter for CNN was cut off from asking a question to NBA athletes about the conflict.

Christina Macfarlane, a sports correspondent for CNN, was shut down during a media event with Rockets players James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

She asked the players if they would “feel differently” about voicing their thoughts on political and social affairs in light of the controversy.

“Excuse me, we’re taking basketball questions only,” a team representative responded.

The NBA later issued an apology, saying that the representative “inappropriately interjected” and that the response was “inconsistent to how the NBA conducts media events.”

And Nike, a major partner of the NBA that provides the league with team apparel, pulled Houston Rockets gear from several stores in China.

Managers at five Nike stores in Shanghai and Beijing told Reuters on Thursday that they had been told in a company memo from management to pull all Rockets merchandise from shelves.

Three stores in Shenzhen, a Chinese city which borders Hong Kong, took down all Rockets merchandise along with NBA merchandise. Three stores in Chengdu, the capital of the Chinese province of Sichuan, also removed Rockets gear.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How adaptive surfing is saving the lives of veterans

Missing: One leg

Description: Orange, red and black with tire tread and pictures of palm trees, surfers and marching soldiers. If found, please return to Dana Cummings, no questions asked.

Cummings, a Marine Corps veteran, is bummed about the missing leg, but said it’s par for the course for adaptive surfing with one leg in San Diego.

“No, it’s still MIA,” he said. “Still out there floating somewhere. I built another one out of some parts I have and still have to glue the tread on. I lost one in Long Bay 10 years ago. Three weeks later it washed up two miles down the beach. Maybe someone in Tijuana will find this leg.”


That won’t stop him from bringing his organization, AmpSurf, to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, Sept. 15 to 20, 2019, in San Diego. More than 150 veterans with various disabilities from across the U.S. will travel to California for a week of adaptive adventure sports and lessons in sailing, surfing, kayaking, pickleball, and cycling.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Dana Cummings lost his prosthetic leg while surfing a couple weeks ago in San Diego, but that won’t stop him and AmpSurf from coming to this year’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic.

Cummings and AmpSurf will take many of those veterans out for the first time in their lives on the water and teach them how to catch a wave.

“This is the thing. Not trying to make world-class surfers out of these guys and women. Not trying to make them adaptive surf champs. We just want to focus on their abilities. We don’t focus on what you can’t do. To get that rush of riding the wave, the sensation of feeling that wave, it helps these veterans get more active.

“Everybody else out there may focus on the disability. When I walk down the street, people can’t help but stare at the leg. But through surfing, we are focusing on their abilities. I don’t care if you don’t surf again after that, but hopefully people go home and realize they surfed for this one week, they can do anything.”

Cummings never surfed when he had two legs. He served in the Marine Corps from 1989 to 1995, including a tour in Desert Storm. While driving his family in a Volkswagen bus in 2002, a vehicle in front of him slammed on the brakes to make a U-turn. Cummings whipped his vehicle to the side and took the brunt of the impact, crushing his legs.

“I remember the first prosthetist asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ And I told him I wanted to surf. And he said, ‘That’s probably not going to happen. You have to be realistic.’

“And I was like, ‘F you!’

“I got on my laptop, found another guy who told me he’d help me make it happen. I was surfing a week after I got out of the hospital. Those first two waves I caught l was laying down, but just happy to be there. The next time, I was able to stand up for two seconds.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Jason Wheeler rides a wave in on a handstand. He said surfing helps make him whole again.

“Now I can ride a long board forever. If I can do this, a fat, little farm guy from Maine, anybody can do this.”

Cummings discovered something else in the surf, too. It was like magic pill for his post-traumatic stress and other issues from the war.

“Surfing is my therapy,” he said. “I used to be on all these medications for depression, anxiety and PTSD. I don’t take any of them anymore. I surf. I surf almost every day. And I can tell, when things are going haywire, I have to go get in that bottle. And thank God VA realizes surfing is therapy. It’s natural.

“Mentally, physically, spiritually, it does all that.”

Since that day he took his first surfboard out, Cummings went on to start his organization that now has chapters in California, New York and New England, with another one starting in Oregon.

“We’ll take anyone out — veterans, blind, kids, anyone with disabilities. It’s funny, I kind of chuckle at it sometimes. I just got back from Oregon and was washing out these wet suits and I never imagined this.”

Changing minds, saving lives

After one event, he sent a survey to participants. A Navy veteran wrote back and said she was thinking of killing herself only days earlier, but AmpSurf changed her mind.

Jamil-Anne Linton said she was in such a deep depression with PTSD that she saw no way out.

“I was extremely suicidal,” she said. “But being out in the water, I didn’t have that fear. It helped me focus. The first time I was catching that wave, I got this feeling of humility, but also a feeling like I was on top of the world. And I love that feeling.”

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Dana Cummings said his organization has taught veterans, children and others with disabilities to surf, such as Rumi Walsh — the daughter of a veteran — who lost one of her arms.

Now she’s paying it forward. She went back to school to become a registered nurse and is working with mental health patients. She also continues to surf every week with Cummings and spread the word about his program.

“On a day I’m extremely stressed,” she said, “I go out on the water.”

“I can do it again”

AmpSurf made the difference, too, for Army veteran Jason Wheeler. He was injured while parachuting out of a Blackhawk helicopter during a training exercise, eventually losing both legs above the knee. The collision with the ground caused sight damage and he’s also legally blind.

“I had never even surfed before then,” Wheeler said. “But you get this energy from the water. You get that one solid wave. You know, you have good days and bad days, and you don’t know what it’s going to be. Surfing is just a like a day. When you wipe out, you say, ‘I can do it again.’

“It gives us a way of focusing on the abilities we can do. When you think about the negativity, it’s going to drown you, and that’s why we have so many suicides. Or you can surf and become whole. We’re all whole, we’re just like Rubik’s Cubes, just broken apart. Some of us just need to be put back together to become beautiful art.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Soothe sore muscles with these 7 foam-rolling moves

You stretch, you warm-up, you ice, you even take Epsom-salt baths (OK, just that one time). But if you really want to take care of your sore muscles, in addition to all that you should learn about the benefits of foam rolling. The foam roller is a small device that can provide relief from existing muscle soreness when you get in the habit of using it to put pressure on your muscles. There’s no better way to help prevent future pain after, say, a particularly serious kettlebell workout.

Foam rolling is what exercise experts refer to as “self-myofascial release,” a fancy way of saying that you use your own body weight to apply pressure to muscle tissues (fascia), thereby releasing tension. The benefits of foam rolling are twofold: First, it helps muscles relax so there is less tension on tendons and bones in your body. Second, it increases your mobility and range of motion, thereby lowering your risk of straining a muscle when you do something like lunge for a soccer ball or your son’s runaway tricycle.


Designed to imitate the experience of getting a massage, the foam roller has been shown to decrease the dreaded delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that occurs after a hard workout. But to reap the benefits, you have to know which moves to do — and how to do them right.

Start with the 7 moves here. In each case, use light to medium pressure (contrary to popular opinion harder is not better and can damage muscle tissue). Do each exercise for 90 seconds and be careful to place the roller under muscle, not bone or joints, for safety.

1. Back roll

Start by placing the foam roller on the ground, then lying on top of it (center it so that one end protrudes from either side of your back). Place it in the middle area of your back. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Push through your feet and slowly straighten your legs, allow your lower back to drifting over the top of the roller until it reaches your hips. Bend knees and roll back in the other direction until the roller reaches just below your shoulders. If the pressure is too intense, prop yourself up on your elbows to relieve some of the weight.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

(Julia Hembree Smith)

2. Glutes roll

This move helps loosen tight butt muscles, which can pull on already-tight hamstrings, leading to injury. Start on the floor, resting your right butt cheek on the roller. Bend knees and keep feet planted on the floor (you will have to twist them to the right side). Using your right hand or elbow for support, rock back and forth slowly on your right side, adjusting the angle of your hips from straight to sideways to bring the roller in contact with the entire glute surface. Switch to the left side and repeat.

3. Calf relaxer

Sit on the floor, legs out in front. Rest your right lower leg on the inside edge of the foam roller so that the end clears contact with your left leg. Bend your left knee, and place hands out the sides and slightly behind your butt. Press through the floor with hands and your left foot to elevate your body so that it is hovering over the floor. Bend and straighten your left leg, allowing the roller to move up and down your right calf. Adjust the pressure by shifting more or less weight from your hands to your calf. Go straight back and forth for 10 rolls, then angle your leg inward so that the roller massages your inner calf. Open your hips outward and repeat so that it works on the outside of your calf. Repeat on the opposite side.

4. Hamstring relaxer

Following the instructions from the calf roll, sit with the inside edge of the foam roller under your right hamstring (upper leg). Bend left knee and place hands out to the side and slightly behind your butt. Raise your body and gently rock so that the foam roller rotates beneath your right hamstring. Use more or less weight on your hands depending on how deep you prefer the pressure. Switch sides and repeat.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Two women use foam rollers to massage their leg muscles after a running event.

5. Quad massager

Lie on your stomach with your right leg straight and left leg bent and out to the side. Situate the roller so that it is beneath your right thigh. Propping yourself up on your elbows and using your left foot for leverage, raise your body from the floor and rock forward and back, applying pressure to the roller as it massages your quad muscle.

5. Foot roll

Lay the roller flat on the floor near a wall. Facing the wall, stand on the roller in bare feet, placing hands against the wall for support. Depending on your arch flexibility and foot sensitivity, this position alone may be enough to feel a release in your arch and foot muscles. For a deeper massage, slowly and roll back onto your heels, then forward onto your toes, maintaining control of the roller (the movement will be quite small).

7. Side stretch

Lie on the right side, resting the roller beneath your armpit. Stretch your right arm out above your head, and place your bent left arm on the floor in front of you for support. Using your feet to push your body forward, allow your torso to slowly roll over the foam roller until it reaches the bottom of your rib cage. Slowly roll back in the other direction. Switch sides and repeat.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

New report reveals the US military’s fattest service branch

About one in five Navy sailors are obese, making it the US military’s fattest service branch, a new Pentagon report found.

The obesity rate for the Navy was 22% — higher than the average for the four main service branches — the “Medical Surveillance Monthly Report” said, adding that obesity is a “growing health concern among Sailors.”

The report stressed that obesity affected Navy readiness — but this branch of the military wasn’t the only one facing higher obesity rates. The Army came in at 17.4%, the Department of Defense average, while the Air Force had a slightly higher rate, at 18.1%. The Marines were by far the leanest, with an obesity rate of only 8.3%.


These calculations were based on body mass index, “calculated utilizing the latest height and weight record in a given year,” the report said. “BMI measurements less than 12 and greater than 45 were considered erroneous and excluded.”

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

(U.S. Navy photo by Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Nelson Doromal)

The report did explain some limits to using BMI: that “Service members with higher lean body mass may be misclassified as obese based on their BMI,” that “not all Service members had a height or weight measurement available in the Vitals data each year,” and that “BMI measures should be interpreted with caution, as some of them can be based on self-reported height and weight.”

Among the services, the report found, obesity rates were higher among men than women, as well as among people 35 and over as opposed to those in their 20s.

“The overall prevalence of obesity has increased steadily since 2014,” it said.

Obesity is on the rise across the services, The New York Times reported. It said the Navy’s obesity rate had increased sixfold since 2011, while the rates for the other services had more than doubled.

This trend appears linked to one in civilian society — 39.8 percent of adult Americans were considered obese in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tim D. Godbee)

Roughly 30% of Americans between the 17 and 24 are ineligible for Army recruitment, and about a third of prospective recruits are disqualified based on their weight, Army Times reported in October 2019.

“Out of all the reasons that we have future soldiers disqualify, the largest — 31 percent — is obesity,” Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, the head of the Army Recruiting Command, told Army Times.

The Army’s 2018 “Health of the Force” report said that “the high prevalence of obesity in the U.S. poses a serious challenge to recruiting and retaining healthy Soldiers.”

The new Pentagon report further explained that “obesity negatively impacts physical performance and military readiness and is associated with long-term health problems such as hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and risk for all-cause mortality.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Army experts offer advice for reducing training injuries

One of the challenges facing Army leadership as they transition to the new Army Combat Fitness Test, which will be fully implemented by October 2020, is preventing musculoskeletal training injuries. Physical training is necessary to develop and maintain the fitness required to accomplish military missions, but is also known to cause injury.

According to Army Public Health Center experts, MSK injuries and related conditions led to an average of 37 limited duty days per injury. This translates to 2 million medical encounters across the Army annually and an estimated 10 million lost training days due to limited duty.

“Seventy percent of all limited duty profiles are for MSK injuries,” said Dr. Michelle Chervak, acting manager for the APHC Injury Prevention Program, which identifies causes and risk factors for Army training-related injuries. “We can show that greater amounts of training (for example, of running or road marching) result in more injuries. Civilian data show us that there are levels of training above which injury rates increase, but fitness does not improve — two signs of overtraining.”


Dr. Bruce Jones, senior scientist, APHC Clinical Public Health and Epidemiology Directorate, explained further that part of the problem for the Army is that the thresholds of training above which injury rates increase and fitness does not have not been established. However, commanders have the information necessary to make decisions about the thresholds — they know the amount of training, physical fitness of their soldiers, and the number of soldiers on profile.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

This infograph offers several tips for leaders to help their soldiers avoid MSK injuries.

“What we need to provide commanders are the general principles of training injury prevention; and an understanding of the relationships between training, fitness, and injuries,” said Jones. “They have to determine the risk of injury they are willing to accept.”

APHC Injury Prevention is working on updating financial and readiness costs to the Army due to MSK injuries.

“At this time, the only formal cost estimate that we have comes from a National Safety Council report for the Secretary of Defense,” said Chervak. “That report stated the annual costs ranged from -20 billion (2001 data). Roughly 40 percent of all injuries across the Department of Defense occur to Army personnel, so the Army costs are approximately .8-8 billion.”

The 2018 Health of the Force report highlights a previous Army success in reducing injury by changing its approach to fitness training.

In 2003, the Army evaluated a new standardized physical training program designed to enhance fitness while minimizing injuries through avoidance of overtraining. An evaluation group implemented the new standardized program and a comparison group conducted traditional PT (running, calisthenics, push-ups, and sit-ups). After nine weeks of basic combat training, the evaluation group had fewer injuries and a higher APFT pass rate.

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

Army Physical Fitness Test at the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition.

The modified program reduced the total miles run by trainees, conducted distance runs by ability groups, added speed drills, executed warm-up exercises instead of pre-exercise stretching, progressed training amount and intensity gradually, and provided a wider variety of exercises.

In 2004, the new standardized PT program based on this evaluated program was mandated for all BCT units across the Army. It was also incorporated into Army physical training doctrine. From 2003 to 2013, a 46 percent decrease in all injuries and a 54 percent decrease in lower extremity overuse injuries among Army trainees was observed.

Jones recommends a five-step public health approach as the most effective construct for Army public health to organize and build an injury prevention program. Steps include surveillance to define the magnitude of the problem, research and field investigations to identify causes and risk factors, intervention trials and systematic reviews to determine what works to address leading risk factors, program and policy implementation to execute prevention, and program evaluation to assess effectiveness.

Jones also notes that both overweight and underweight soldiers who are the least physically fit are at the highest risk for injury compared to their most fit peers.

“The highest risks occur among the most underweight (leanest), least physically fit (slowest run times) men and women in basic training,” said Jones. “This is probably because underweight soldiers lack the muscle mass necessary to perform soldiers tasks and withstand the vigorous physical activity required.”

Injury risks are also 20 to 50 percent higher for soldiers who smoke cigarettes.

“A variety of hypotheses explain this relationship; the most feasible is that smokers have a reduced ability to heal following injury,” said Chervak. “Overuse injuries result from an inability to repair damage due to daily training; smokers repair that cumulative microtrauma less rapidly.”

49ers player George Kittle is honoring Gold Star families with custom cleats

U.S. Army Spc. Cameron Hebel, assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, performs sit-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test at Joint Multinational Training Command Best Warrior Competition at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 8, 2013.

(U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

APHC is currently piloting a program through the Army Wellness Center at Fort Campbell focused on identifying soldiers at highest injury risk based on APFT run time, the leading predictor of active-duty Army injury risk.

APHC is working with specific units and the Fort Campbell Community Ready and Resilient Council to identify soldiers who meet the criteria for referral (men: run time slower than 15 minutes; women: run time slower than 19 minutes), said Chervak. These soldiers are offered AWC fitness assessments to assist with improving aerobic fitness, physical activity, sleep, and body composition.

“AWC education efforts focus on physical activity, sleep, nutrition (weight loss), and tobacco cessation; all factors that influence injury risk,” said Chervak. “There is a natural partnership with APHC’s Health Promotion and Wellness directorate. Key avenues of influence are Performance Triad-related communications and referral of high risk soldiers to the AWCs.”

Jones said the most important step forward is for leadership to recognize that training-related injuries are a problem and they can be prevented.

“Commanders need to recognize that there are no magic bullets,” said Jones. “Training causes injuries and modifications of training will prevent injuries. Commanders have the information to monitor injuries and fitness, and modify training to prevent injuries. We still need to determine the thresholds of training by unit at which injuries increase, but fitness does not improve.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.