By Bryant Jordan
© Copyright 2014 Military.com
As the military prepares to allow female troops in ground combat units, studies show the Department of Veterans Affairs can expect more female veterans will suffer from the kinds of injuries that go with being a ground-pounder.
No one can yet say what that means in treatment program costs or disability compensation increases, but Army and VA studies show that women will be at greater risk for musculoskeletal injuries.
Advocates for women serving in direct combat units say the problem may be overcome without lowering standards by improved training and fitness, while critics say nothing is going to change the fact that women are not built to be in the infantry.
For its part, the VA says it has to be ready for a possible rise in the number of female troops with bone, joint and ligament injuries.
"I don't think there is a way now to say exactly what the experience will be, but I expect as more and more women go into these physically demanding roles, we may see an increase in [these] injuries," said Dr. Sally Haskell, VA deputy chief consultant for women's health services and director of comprehensive women's health.
She said the VA already has begun ramping up services for women, including establishing a group of physicians that are its experts in women's health care. This program specifically includes sessions in musculoskeletal health. Also, she said, "we're just beginning to assess our capacity to care for women's specialty needs in the areas of rheumatology and orthopedics."
Women generally, in and out of the military, incur musculoskeletal injuries at rates at least somewhat higher than men, Haskell said.