BACKGROUND: With the removal of gender restrictions and the changing nature of warfare potentially increasing female soldier exposure to heavy military load carriage, the aim of this research was to determine relative risks and patterns of load carriage related injuries in female compared to male soldiers.
METHODS: The Australian Defence Force Occupational Health, Safety and Compensation Analysis and Reporting workplace injury database was searched to identify all reported load carriage injuries. Using key search terms, the narrative description fields were used as the search medium to identify records of interest. Population estimates of the female: male incident rate ratio (IRR) were calculated with ninety-five percent confidence interval (95% CI) around the population estimate of each IRR determined.
RESULTS: Female soldiers sustained 10% (n = 40) of the 401 reported injuries, with a female to male IRR of 1.02 (95% CI 0.74 to 1.41). The most common site of injury for both genders was the back (F: n = 11, 27%; M: n = 80, 22%), followed by the foot in female soldiers (n = 8, 20%) and the ankle (n = 60, 17%) in male soldiers. Fifteen percent (n = 6) of injuries in female soldiers and 6% (n = 23) of injuries in males were classified as Serious Personal Injuries (SPI) with the lower back the leading site for both genders (F: n = 3, 43%: M: n = 8, 29%). The injury risk ratio of SPI for female compared to male soldiers was 2.40 (95% CI 0.98 to 5.88).
CONCLUSIONS: While both genders similarly have the lower back as the leading site of injury while carrying load, female soldiers have more injuries to the foot as the second leading site of injury, as opposed to ankle injuries in males. The typically smaller statures of female soldiers may have predisposed them to their observed higher risk of suffering SPI while carrying loads.