Bone and Joint Medical Disqualifications From Military

Details of Conditions That Prevent Enlistment

Man with knee pain
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There are several medical conditions involving bones and joints that can disqualify otherwise eligible candidates from joining the U.S. military.

Some of these ailments can be excused with a waiver depending upon the circumstances, but waivers are typically on a case by case basis. Many depend upon the injury or defect, or the technological advances in surgical repairs.

Bone Fractures

If you've had a fracture and it healed without surgery, your chances of getting into the military are good. What could be disqualifying are situations where the fracture caused some kind of permanent damage. Examples:

  • Current nonunion of any fracture (except asymptomatic ulnar styloid process fracture)
  • Current retained hardware that is symptomatic interferes with proper wearing of protective equipment or military uniform, and/or is subject to easy trauma
  • Current devices, including, but not limited to silastic or titanium, implanted to correct orthopedic abnormalities
  • Current or history of contusion of bone or joint; an injury of more than a minor nature that will interfere or prevent performance of military duty, or will require frequent or prolonged treatment without fracture nerve injury, open wound, crush or dislocation, which occurred within the preceding six weeks (upper extremity, lower extremity, ribs and clavicle)
  • History of joint replacement of any site
  • Current or history of muscular paralysis, contracture, or atrophy, if progressive or of sufficient degree to interfere with or prevent satisfactory performance of military duty or if it will require frequent or prolonged treatment
  • Current osteochondritis dissecans
  • Current or history of osteochondromatosis or multiple cartilaginous exostoses
  • Current osteoporosis
  • Current osteomyelitis, or history of recurrent osteomyelitis

Pain That Prevents Full Range Of Motion / Ability

Here are some conditions that fall under this category:

  • Any current or history of chondromalacia, including, but not limited to chronic patellofemoral pain syndrome and retro-patellar pain syndrome, chronic osteoarthritis or traumatic arthritis
  • Current joint dislocation or a history of recurrent dislocations of any major joint such as shoulder, hip, elbow, knee, ankle, or instability of any major joint (shoulder, elbow, hip, ankle, and foot, or multiple sites)
  • History of recurrent instability of the knee or shoulder

However, surgical repairs may make some of these issues eligible for a waiver. 

In addition, any current or history of chronic osteoarthritis or traumatic arthritis of isolated joints of more than a minimal degree that has interfered with the following of a physically active vocation in civilian life, or that prevents the satisfactory performance of military duty is disqualifying.

Foot and Ankle Injuries

Most debilitating foot or ankle injuries will be disqualifying.

  • Any current neuroma that impairs walking, marching, running, or jumping, or prevents the proper wearing of military footwear
  • Current or history of deformities of the toes that prevent the proper wearing of military footwear or impairs walking, marching, running, or jumping
  • Current or history of clubfoot or pes cavus
  • Current symptomatic pes planus or history of pes planus corrected by prescription or custom orthotics
  • Current ingrown toenails, if infected or symptomatic
  • Current plantar fasciitis

Candidates and recruits must not have any current injuries, even if the injury is minor and can heal in a short period of time. 

Disqualifying Leg, Knee, Thigh, and Hip Conditions

  • Current loose or foreign body within the knee joint
  • History of uncorrected anterior or posterior cruciate ligament injury
  • History of surgical correction of knee ligaments is disqualifying only if symptomatic or unstable. Current symptomatic medial and lateral collateral ligament injury
  • Current symptomatic medial and lateral meniscal injury
  • Current unspecified internal derangement of the knee
  • Current or history of congenital dislocation of the hip, osteochondritis of the hip (Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease), or slipped femoral epiphysis of the hip
  • Current or history of hip dislocation within 2 years preceding examination
  • Current osteochondritis of the tibial tuberosity (Osgood-Schlatter disease) is disqualifying

General Conditions

Current deformities, disease, or chronic joint pain of pelvic region, thigh, lower leg, ankle, and/ or foot that have prevented the person from following a physically active vocation in civilian life, or that would interfere with walking, running, weight bearing, or the satisfactory completion of training or military duty, are disqualifying.