Gender policy leads to injuries for female soldiers

Female
recruits in the Army are more than twice as likely to suffer a training injury
now that they are expected to reach the same levels of fitness as men.

Research
conducted by an Army occupational physician has shown that women are up to
eight times more likely to be discharged from duty because they are injured through
training.

Although
recruits from both sexes have trained together for many years, the Army had
traditionally operated a gender-fair policy, where female recruits where not
expected to attain the same levels of physical fitness as their male counterparts.

However,
since 1998 the Army has had a gender-free programme, which means that the same
physical tests are applied to all soldiers. The policy was introduced after it
was discovered that some women were unable to carry out certain duties after
completing training.

The
latest research compared the numbers of medical discharges among soldiers who
trained under the old policy between 1997-98, and those who trained under the
gender free programme between 1998-99. The data showed that the number of
discharged men remained below 1.5 per cent, but for women it rose from 4.6 per
cent to 11.1 per cent.

The
main problems are overuse injuries, such as stress fractures, and the report
cited several possible reasons for the increase in female injuries during the new
training regime.

According
to the report, causes could include the differences in women’s bone size
putting more stress on the female skeleton, women marching at a longer pace
when training with men and the time period of training not giving women’s muscles
sufficient time to mimic the male.

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