Background: Studies suggest that women are at greater risk than men for sports and training injuries. This study investigated the association between gender and risk of exercise-related injuries among Army basic trainees while controlling for physical fitness and demographics.
Methods: Eight hundred and sixty-one trainees were followed during their 8-week basic training course. Demographic characteristics, body composition, and physical fitness were measured at the beginning of training. Physical fitness measures were taken again at the end of training. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to evaluate the association between gender and risk of injury while controlling for potential confounders.
Results: Women experienced twice as many injuries as men (relative risk [RR] = 2.1, 1.78-2.5) and experienced serious time-loss injuries almost 2.5 times more often than men (RR = 2.4, 1. 92-3.05). Women entered training at significantly lower levels of physical fitness than men, but made much greater improvements in fitness over the training period.In multivariate analyses, where demographics, body composition, and initial physical fitness were controlled, female gender was no longer a significant predictor of injuries (RR = 1.14, 0.48-2.72). Physical fitness, particularly aerobic fitness, remained significant.
Conclusions: The key risk factor for training injuries appears to be physical fitness, particularly cardiovascular fitness. The significant improvement in endurance attained by women suggests that women enter training less physically fit relative to their own fitness potential, as well as to men. Remedial training for less fit soldiers is likely to reduce injuries and decrease the gender differential in risk of injuries.