Females have a greater incidence of stress fractures than males in both military and athletic populations: a systemic review

Mil Med. 2011 Apr;176(4):420-30. doi: 10.7205/milmed-d-10-00322.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to review incidence of stress fractures in military and athlete populations and identify factors explaining causes and differences in the incidence among genders.

Methods: Searches were conducted using several major databases. The studies were included if they were original studies including both male and female subjects and their aim was to identify incidence rates and risk factors contributing to the development of stress fractures. Of several thousand studies, 11 focusing on military populations and 10 on athletes are discussed.

Results: In both populations, females had higher incidence of stress fractures, with incidence of approximately 3% and approximately 9.2% for males and females, respectively, in military populations and approximately 6.5% and approximately 9.7%, respectively, in athletes.

Conclusions: Factors possibly explaining why females are more susceptible to stress fractures include bone anatomy, lower aerobic capacity, smaller muscle, and poor diet. However, both female recruits and athletes with normal weight and bone health are less likely to develop stress fractures, showing that gender is less important than the overall physical shape/condition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Stress / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors