Highly motivated young males and females are recruited to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) at the age of 18 yr. The rapid transit into a world of intense physical training imposes a significant burden on their musculoskeletal and physiological systems as well as on their mental strength. We, in the Medical Corps, are obligated to ensure that the physical demands aiming to improve their ability will not harm their health.
For the past decade, there has been a growing interest in the IDF to integrate women into combat positions that historically were male dominated posts. This fact reflects the increasing involvement of women in the armed forces worldwide. The physiological differences between men and women have limited the inclusion of female soldiers in combat units due to physical limitations related to gender physiological characteristics. For instance, a higher susceptibility to stress fractures and other musculoskeletal injuries, ranging from up to 30% among female recruits, was evident in comparison with only 7-10% among male soldiers engaging in similar military regimens. This issue is a medical and financial burden that we must cope with in the most progressive way.
The supplement "Gender Factors Contributing to Performance and Musculoskeletal Injury in Military Recruits" is the outcome of topics that were highlighted at the Shoresh and Biomedical Meeting held in Israel in October 2006. The supplement itself is an example of an imminent product from an increasingly collaborative research program between the Medical Corps of the US Army and the IDF. This scientific product demands communication and interaction between scientists from different areas from both militaries and consequently creates new scientific awareness and understanding and matures both the scientific and the collaborative relationships. This supplement is a successful joint project, thanks to the collaboration between the two military medical establishments sharing the same missions.
Researchers from both militaries are obligated to improve military performance and to maximize human abilities to be used during training and in the battle field. Therefore, future military medical research should seek to decrease musculoskeletal injuries, find better methods for diagnosis, and improve treatment. Based on our experience, these goals can be achieved as a result of collective and collaborative efforts from scientists from both militaries in conjunction with academic expertise. It is a challenging mutual task, and the research topics that are presented in this supplement are good evidence of our best professional and moral obligation to the health and performance of our male and female soldiers.