After at least 15 years of hyping the idea of women in combat units, the IDF is admitting that women suffer injuries at a much higher rate than men during combat training – despite the fact that training requirements for women in combat are considerably less demanding than for men.
According to a report in the IDF's Bamahane magazine, a large scale study was conducted among female combat soldiers in the Karakal infantry unit, the Artillery Corps and the Field Intelligence Corps, between the years 2012-13.
The study indicated that a full 46% of the female soldiers suffered injuries during their initial period of training, as opposed to 25% among the men. One third of the women in the study were injured more than once.
The injuries included torn ligaments, sprains, knee pain, back pain and stress fractures. The latter were much more common in women, afflicting only 2% of men but 8% of the women. “Most stress fractures appear in weeks 4-6 of the training period, and mainly in the field and warfare weeks,” an officer explained to Bamahane.
"The bone density of female combat soldiers is lower than that of men, and that is why they suffer more injuries,” said the officer. “The fat percentage in women is 70% to 100% greater than men's and that is why they are slower than them, and consume more energy during activity. At the same time, their muscle density is 33% less than the men's and their ability to carry weights is lower.”
The study found that the injury rate for female soldiers in Karakal is 40%, and in the Artillery Corps it reaches a whopping 70%. Knee pain among female combat soldiers is three times more common than among males, and tears in knee ligaments are also more common in women.
Women drop out of the combat track for medical reasons at rates that are 2 to 5 times those of men's.
Despite all this evidence, the IDF is making an effort to combat physiological nature and reduce women's injury rates. This is being done because of a recent decision to double the number of women in combat, in order to try and make up for the shortage in men, whose period of service has been rather inexplicably shortened, from 36 months to just 32.
Starting in November of 2015, therefore, every female combat soldier will undergo medical examinations and blood tests before she enlists, rather than afterward. How this will reduce injury rates is not clear from the report.
The IDF will also change the training exercises and diet to “fit” them to women. Presumably, training for women will be made even less demanding than it is now.