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Gender data gap in military research: a review of the participation of men and women in military musculoskeletal injury studies
  1. Thomas J O'Leary1,2,
  2. C D Young1,
  3. S L Wardle1,2 and
  4. J P Greeves1,2,3
  1. 1Army Health and Performance Research, British Army, Andover, UK
  2. 2Division of Surgery and Interventional Science, UCL, London, UK
  3. 3Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas J O'Leary, Army Health and Performance Research, British Army, Andover SP11 8HT, UK; thomas.oleary100{at}mod.gov.uk

Abstract

Servicewomen are at increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries compared with their male counterparts, but women are under-represented in sports medicine research. The aim of this review was to assess the representation of women in military musculoskeletal injury studies. PubMed was searched for human original research studies using the terms Military OR Army OR Navy OR ‘Air Force’ AND ‘musculoskeletal injury’. Each study was categorised as epidemiology (basic training), epidemiology (trained personnel), risk factors, interventions and other. The number of male and female participants was retrieved from each study. A total of 262 studies were included: 98 (37%) studies only included men, 17 (6%) studies only included women and 147 (56%) studies included both men and women. A total of 8 051 778 participants were included in these studies (men: 6 711 082, 83%; women: 1 340 696, 17%). The study theme with the greatest proportion of women was musculoskeletal injury epidemiology studies in a basic training population (20% of participants) with the lowest proportion of women in intervention trials (6% of participants). These data suggest women are not under-represented in military musculoskeletal injury studies when considering the gender representation of most militaries. Our data are, however, biased by large epidemiological trials and women were under-represented in intervention trials. The under-representation of women in intervention trials could be due to difficulties in controlling for the effects of female sex steroids on musculoskeletal outcomes, or a focus on interventions in the most arduous military roles where injury risk is highest and women have been previously excluded.

  • epidemiology
  • occupational & industrial medicine
  • musculoskeletal disorders
  • sports medicine

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. All data relevant to the study are included in the article.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. All data relevant to the study are included in the article.

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Footnotes

  • Twitter @JulieGreeves

  • Contributors TJO’L designed the study; interpreted the data; produced the first draft of the manuscript; and approved the final version of the manuscript. CDY designed the study; searched and screened the literature; analysed the data; reviewed the manuscript for intellectual content; and approved the final version. SLW reviewed the manuscript for intellectual content and approved the final version. JPG designed the study; reviewed the manuscript for intellectual content; and approved the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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