Military Medical Standards For Enlistment And Appointment

Upper Body Extremity Issues

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Hyper-flexible joints, frozen joints, missing fingers, limbs, any paralysis are some of the more common reasons candidates for the military get disqualified at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) or the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DODMERB) for both enlisted recruits and officer candidates respectively. 

The military has strict standards of both mental and physical skills that vary in specifics depending upon the job or military occupational specialty being sought by recruits.

There are some minimal standards that must be met and many of these are not waiverable.  Some can be waived but each waiver for any disqualifying condition requires command level authorization and are decided upon on a case by case basis.

The disqualifying medical conditions associated with the upper body extremities (shoulders to fingers) are listed below. 

A recruit will be rejected for entry into the military (officer or enlisted) unless a waiver is approved if the applicant has a history of: 

Limitation Of Motion (Shoulder, Elbow, Wrist)

Shoulder Joint

Normal range of motion of the shoulder must be able to elevate in front of the body to 90 degrees.

The process of abduction where the arm can be lifted to the side of the body to 90 degrees is required. 

Elbow Joint

Bending the elbow by flexing the biceps muscles to a range of motion of at least 100 degrees is required.
(Flexing the arm at the elbow)

Extension of the elbow by flexing the triceps muscles to a range of  motion of at least 15 degrees is required.

(straightening the arm)

Wrist

A total range of motion of at least 60 degrees (extension plus flexion) or radial and ulnar deviation combined arc 30 degrees.

Hand

Pronation to a minimum standard of 45 degrees means having a range of motion that allows you to rotate your hand so your palm is facing toward the ground when your forearm is parallel to the floor.

Supination to a minimum standard of 45 degrees means having a range of motion that allows you to rotate your hand so your palm is facing toward the sky when your forearm is parallel to the floor.

Fingers and Thumb

Not being able to clench your fist, pick on a pin, grab an object or touch the tips of your fingers with your thumb is disqualifying.  You must be able to at least touch three fingers to your thumb to be eligible for military service. 

Hand and Fingers

Absence of any finger, piece of finger, or thumb is disqualifying without a waiver.

Any absence of the hand or any part of the hand is disqualifying. 

Any extra finger is also disqualifying.

Any scars or deformities whether congenital or accidents that prevent formal function of the hand and would interfere with military duties are disqualifying.

Any nerve damage that causes paralysis, weakness, numbness, or the hands, fingers, and arms is disqualifying.  For instance, carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital syndromes, lesion of ulnar and radio nerves that cause muscle atrophy, weakness, numbness, or paralysis is disqualifying.

Any disease, injury (bone or soft tissue), or birth defect that causes weakness or disqualifying symptoms that prevents the ability to perform military duty that includes but it not limited to chronic joint pain, arm, hand, and fingers.

 

See also section on Miscellaneous Conditions of the Extremities.

In conclusion, the section of the body from shoulder to fingers are highly mobile and subject to intense scrutiny during processing into the military. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and joints for this region of the body are easily injured and often require surgery to repair. If the retained hardware from surgery impairs any function, it is disqualifying. However, if corrected through surgical means, retained hardware such as plates, pins, rods, wires, or screws used to repair the injury and there is no pain, ligaments and bones are stable, and it is not subject to easy trauma, the metal is allowed.

This information is derived from Department of Defense (DOD) Directive 6130.3, "Physical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, and Induction," and DOD Instruction 6130.4, "Criteria and Procedure Requirements for Physical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Armed Forces.

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