Sunday 19 February 2012

IPPT won't be changed for now

By Lin Zhaowei, The Straits Times, 18 Feb 2012

DEFENCE Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday said that the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) will remain as it is for now.

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has reviewed the test a number of times over the years, and found that it is still adequate, said Dr Ng.

Dr Ng was responding to questions by Nee Soon GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak in Parliament about the IPPT and medical screenings of servicemen taking the test.

The minister said an efficient and effective test is needed because 116,000 people take the IPPT every year.

Addressing Dr Lim's concerns about the incidence of cardiac events during or after IPPT, Dr Ng said there were two cardiac-related deaths in the last five years.

Last month, a 28-year-old national serviceman collapsed and died after completing the 2.4km run during his physical fitness test.

To prevent training-related injuries and fatalities, Dr Ng said that comprehensive medical screening is conducted for all national servicemen during their service period. The screening guidelines used for heart-related conditions are developed by an expert panel comprising leading cardiologists from the public sector and senior Singapore Armed Forces doctors.

They are regularly reviewed, taking into account the latest medical evidence and clinical best practices.

They are in line with, and in some instances exceed, existing national and international standards, said Dr Ng. The last review was held in May last year.

All pre-enlistees currently undergo a medical review to detect heart abnormalities, which includes a chest X-ray and a resting electrocardiogram (ECG). Servicemen aged 35 and above undergo a health screening annually before they are allowed to take the IPPT.

When required, servicemen will undergo additional tests such as treadmill ECG and ultrasound, said Dr Ng.

During supplementary questioning, Nominated Member of Parliament Nicholas Fang asked if Mindef would consider conducting treadmill ECG for all servicemen. He said resting state ECG does not typically show abnormalities when strain or physical stress is imposed.

Mr Fang cited tests done by the Singapore Sports Council for athletes, which proceed straight to treadmill ECG, as an example of this.

In response, Dr Ng said while Mindef is open to suggestions, it is careful to listen to advice and recommendations by its expert panel.

'Even though I am medically trained... I defer to the guidelines and we do it as a system,' he said.

'If this expert panel says that we should add this, we will do so.'

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