Do the math: If female AFL players injure at 5 times the rate of men, what about female soldiers?

It’s amazing how practice can take the oomph out of theory.

One very small season and a further two (very low-scoring) games into the experiment known as female footy and the bright sparks down at AFL HQ are experiencing the actual difference between men and women.

In short, one of these demographics is more likely to suffer injuries than the other. You should be able to work out which of them it is yourself. But if you just can’t muster a Sherlock-like ability to deduce the bleeding obvious, a medical expert helpfully gives the answer below.

This is what was plastered all over the AFL website yesterday:

AFLW players are about five times more likely to rupture an anterior cruciate ligament than their male counterparts, leading sports medico Peter Brukner says.

The opening two weeks of the NAB AFLW season have been blighted by a spate of season-ending knee injuries…

..Brukner told RSN radio on Monday morning this run of knee injuries could largely be explained by the fact women are significantly more vulnerable to ACL ruptures than men.

“(Women) are something like five times more likely to tear their (anterior) cruciate than their male counterparts with equivalent activity,” Brukner said.

The interesting part of all of this is this: while the AFL learns the painful way that female bodies injure at a far higher rate in a far lower intensity game than that played by men, Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal government is about to pass laws requiring females to be placed in front-line combat roles.

Now, generally speaking, combat is not a game.

When you lose on the sporting field you get to have beers in the pub afterwards. When you lose on the battlefield someone (hopefully) sends you home in a box.

However, generally speaking both combat and sport depend on an ability to do really physical things. Both of them, so to speak, sort the men from the boys.

Yet our nation is sending women into the fight.

The AFL is learning this has its problem with a large number of broken knees. The Australian government (and the families of this nation) will learn one day that this has its problems too.

But I’m not sure a broken knee will be the extent of the disaster.

In fact, happy days if that’s as bad as it gets.

Cory Bernardi was ridiculed last week for clearing his throat while this insanity was promoted in the parliament. And then Andrew Hastie also had the courage to speak up.

He might know, too. After all, he has served in the SAS (which I have not), so you can take his word over mine on the dubious benefits of this idea to the cohesion of a fighting team.

Strangely, the Liberal Defence Minister, Marise Payne, got all hot and frothy (but only about Bernardi – which kinda makes this frothiness seem a little petty and partisan):

So did the West Australian Senator, Linda Reynolds (who did serve in the military and was never once required to meet the same basic fitness assessment as men – so no need to worry about lowered standards when they’re already lowered, eh?):


Yet neither of these women addressed the concerns raised by Bernardi or Hastie. That’s ok because in today’s world anything a man says can be instantly ignored because it was said by a man and the words ‘diversity’ and ‘equality’ form some magical barrier against criticism.

But the words of another woman are not so easy to dismiss.

Captain Katie Petronio served in the US Marines and she outlined her experience in a 2012 article questioning the wisdom of the push for female ‘grunts’:

As a company grade 1302 combat engineer officer with 5 years of active service and two combat deployments, one to Iraq and the other to Afghanistan, I was able to participate in and lead numerous combat operations…This combat experience, in particular, compelled me to raise concern over the direction and overall reasoning behind opening the [infantry] field [to females].

And then this experienced veteran explained why:

…my main concern is a question of longevity. Can women endure the physical and physiological rigors of sustained combat operations, and are we willing to accept the attrition and medical issues that go along with integration?

As a young lieutenant, I fit the mold of a female who would have had a shot at completing IOC, and I am sure there was a time in my life where I would have volunteered to be an infantryman. I was a star ice hockey player at Bowdoin College, a small elite college in Maine, with a major in government and law. At 5 feet 3 inches I was squatting 200 pounds and benching 145 pounds when I graduated in 2007. I completed Officer Candidates School (OCS) ranked 4 of 52 candidates, graduated 48 of 261 from TBS, and finished second at MOS school. I also repeatedly scored far above average in all female-based physical fitness tests (for example, earning a 292 out of 300 on the Marine physical fitness test). Five years later, I am physically not the woman I once was and my views have greatly changed on the possibility of women having successful long careers while serving in the infantry. I can say from firsthand experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not just emotion, that we haven’t even begun to analyze and comprehend the gender-specific medical issues and overall physical toll continuous combat operations will have on females.

Captain Petronio was obviously highly fit, highly intelligent and highly competent.

No one should question her motivation, her patriotism or her willingness to serve.

But Captain Petronio herself questioned her physical ability – and she did so after combat experience and even though there is no doubt that she was one of the very few women with the fitness to embark on the infantry training program:

I was a motivated, resilient second lieutenant when I deployed to Iraq for 10 months, traveling across the Marine area of operations (AO) and participating in numerous combat operations. Yet, due to the excessive amount of time I spent in full combat load, I was diagnosed with a severe case of restless leg syndrome. My spine had compressed on nerves in my lower back causing neuropathy which compounded the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. While this injury has certainly not been enjoyable, Iraq was a pleasant experience compared to the experiences I endured during my deployment to Afghanistan. At the beginning of my tour in Helmand Province, I was physically capable of conducting combat operations for weeks at a time, remaining in my gear for days if necessary and averaging 16-hour days of engineering operations in the heart of Sangin, one of the most kinetic and challenging AOs in the country…

…The physical strain of enduring combat operations and the stress of being responsible for the lives and well-being of such a young group in an extremely kinetic environment were compounded by lack of sleep, which ultimately took a physical toll on my body that I couldn’t have foreseen.

By the fifth month into the deployment, I had muscle atrophy in my thighs that was causing me to constantly trip and my legs to buckle with the slightest grade change. My agility during firefights and mobility on and off vehicles and perimeter walls was seriously hindering my response time and overall capability…

…It was evident that stress and muscular deterioration was affecting everyone regardless of gender; however, the rate of my deterioration was noticeably faster than that of male Marines and further compounded by gender-specific medical conditions. At the end of the 7-month deployment, and the construction of 18 PBs later, I had lost 17 pounds and was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (which personally resulted in infertility, but is not a genetic trend in my family), which was brought on by the chemical and physical changes endured during deployment…

…Regardless, I can say with 100 percent assurance that despite my accomplishments, there is no way I could endure the physical demands of the infantrymen whom I worked beside as their combat load and constant deployment cycle would leave me facing medical separation long before the option of retirement.

Petronio then went on to look at the wider implications for the US Marines and the known statistics that already point to the failure of the attempt to place females in infantry units:

I understand that everyone is affected differently; however, I am confident that should the Marine Corps attempt to fully integrate women into the infantry, we as an institution are going to experience a colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for females.

There is a drastic shortage of historical data on female attrition or medical ailments of women who have executed sustained combat operations. This said, we need only to review the statistics from our entry-level schools to realize that there is a significant difference in the physical longevity between male and female Marines. At OCS the attrition rate for female candidates in 2011 was historically low at 40 percent, while the male candidates attrite at a much lower rate of 16 percent. Of candidates who were dropped from training because they were injured or not physically qualified, females were breaking at a much higher rate than males, 14 percent versus 4 percent. The same trends were seen at TBS in 2011; the attrition rate for females was 13 percent versus 5 percent for males, and 5 percent of females were found not physically qualified compared with 1 percent of males. Further, both of these training venues have physical fitness standards that are easier for females; at IOC there is one standard regardless of gender. The attrition rate for males attending IOC in 2011 was 17 percent. Should female Marines ultimately attend IOC, we can expect significantly higher attrition rates and long-term injuries for women.


You can read Captain Petronio’s full article here.

And you can watch her below:

Not to worry. Once the Greens have prosecuted Jim Molan for doing his job in Iraq I’m sure they’ll turn their sights on the hippies. Watch this space for an Adam Bandt-led inquiry into war crimes of stupidity committed against our own people.


When I was in Iraq in 2008/09, we were required to chaperone female Australians in certain places and locations. And this wasn’t to protect them from the enemy. It was to protect them from our allies…

Author: Bernard Gaynor

Bernard Gaynor is a married father of nine children. He has a background in military intelligence, Arabic language and culture and is an outspoken advocate of conservative and family values.

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  1. So when the next conflict starts in our AO would females be added in the National Service/Conscription barrel?

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  2. Years ago I watched a program about an Australian female olympian runner (can’t remember her name) who, with her doctor and trainer, was trying to find out why she had so many knee problems. They found that a woman’s hormones loosen up all her ligaments just before her period making a woman much more susceptible to injury at that time each month.
    I, myself, find that I get severe back pain, other joint pain and migraines every month if I am not careful with what I do the week before my period.
    And that’s just the way it is. I’m not a man, don’t feel the necessity to show I can do what a man can, because I can’t.
    Furthermore I have a son in the defence force and he’s not impressed about having to drag a girl along because she couldn’t keep up.

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  3. Bernard

    Keep up your good work. From all this stupidity, the truth will eventually win out.


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