Potential problems?


10-Year Member
5-Year Member
May 13, 2008
My son is currently a high school junior and is just starting the application process. After reading through these threads, we have become concerned about three possible problems:

1) he was having severe headaches for several weeks this past fall. He went to an allergist (family friend) who eventually ordered a MRI. He was treated with some heavy-duty antibiotics for a severe sinus infection, which apparently solved the problem since the headaches ceased.

2) He broke his ankle Dec of 2006 playing basketball. Had three screws put in (orthopedic surgeon said it was a bit of overkill but he wanted to make sure everything healed exactly right). Rehabbed it and was playing basketball again with three months.

3) This is the big one. He was having back pain during basketball season this past year. Orthopedist decided to order an MRI in January (2008) which revealed a slightly herniated disc. The doctor felt like it was pretty minor and it was treated with physical therapy. My son didn't even have to sit out a game during basketball season (in fact, he played so well that he made the all-State second team). After physical therapy, my son was released from the orthopedist's care. He is now playing AAU basketball and says his back actually feels stronger than before (probably die to the PT and his continuing back exercises.)

Assuming he gets to medical exam point, should I assume that he will be disqualified and will need to try for a waiver? Should we take him back to the orthopedist before the medical exam so he can give us a current evaluation and include a letter in his records that the back is all healed and should not be a problem? Should I get a letter from his coaches before the medical exam that says that the back has not hindered his activity at all ? Or should we wait until after we're officially notified that he is disqualified?

Since he is in such good shape (and works so hard to stay in peak shape) and feels like he has totally healed, he was surprised (and disappointed) to read these threads and realize that this old injury could disqualify him (and he's sincerely regretting getting that back MRI). Any advice would be very much appreciated.

I'll start with the easy stuff first. The fracture with retained hardware should not be an issue as long as the hardware is not in a position where is could be easily injured. If he hasn't had any problems in over a year it shouldn't be a problem.

For the one time sinus infection, it will not be an issue, as long as it was only a one time issue. If he has chronic sinus infections (more than 2 a year for the past 2 years) it could possibly be an issue.

For the herniated disk. From DoDMERB's standpoint there is no such thing as "slightly". Its either herniated or not. It will be a disqualification. It will be difficult to obtain a waiver for a herniated disk. The possibility that it will get worse in the next 24 years (4 years of school and 20 years of service) is very high. The waiver authorities want to make sure that all applicants that go to the academies or ROTC programs will be as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

Please do not take this post as saying that you should not apply. Waivers have been granted in the past for herniated disks. Not many, but it is possible, and you will never truly know the answer if you do not try. Also, getting the MRI done was the right thing to do for your son. If you had not gotten it done you would never have known about it, your son probably would have continued to play through the pain, most likely injuring it more. So do not beat yourself up over this.

So what to do now. I would start by getting copies of all the medical records and physical therapy records for all the items you have listed here. Keep them on hand until DoDMERB requests them. You may want to consider having the orthopedic surgeon do an evaluation of the ankle and back. This is totally up to you as DoDMERB may see the evaluations, and still want another one.

Again, if this is what your son wants to do, by all means have him apply and go through the process. Just be honest with him, and make sure he has back up plans. As I stated before, you never know unless you try.

As always, if you have any other questions please feel free to ask away!!
Thanks for your response. You are right- I am absolutely beating myself up over the MRI. We're going to talk to his orthopedist ASAP about all this and get a very frank assessment in light of my son's service academy hopes. Looking to the future, do you agree, as I have seen written other places, that the chances of a waiver are higher if the candidate's qualifications are otherwise very strong? And will it help if we get everything in early?

Again, thanks. I'm sure we'll be back with more questions as we go through this process.
The admissions process is completely separate from the medical process. With certain programs the admissions office tells the waiver authorities who they need to look at (the applicants the admissions office feels will be getting an appointment). Other than that, the waiver authorities do not know how strong a candidate is.

You should initially concentrate on getting the admissions portion completed, but as I stated earlier, go ahead and get copies of all the medical records and have them on hand for when DoDMERB requests them. DO NOT SEND THEM IN WITH THE PHYSICAL EXAMINATION!!! Once you start the DoDMERB portion of the process you will want to get information in as soon as possible, but DoDMERB does not have any deadlines so you could also take your time.