Anemia, iron deficiency, and stress fractures in female combatants during 16 months

Ran Yanovich, Drorit Merkel, Eran Israeli, Rachel K. Evans, Tomer Erlich, Daniel S. Moran*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the hematological profile of military recruits in different settings and training programs and to investigate the link between anemia and iron deficiency with stress fracture (SF) occurrence. We surveyed × groups of recruits for 16 months: 221 women (F) and 78 men (M) from × different platoons of a gender-integrated combat battalion and a control group (C F) of 121 female soldiers from a noncombat unit. Data were fully collected upon induction and at 4 and 16 months from 48F, 21M, and 31C F. Blood tests, anthropometry, physical aerobic fitness, and SF occurrence were evaluated. On induction day, 18.0 and 19.0% of F and C F were found to be anemic, and 61.4 and 50.9%, respectively, were found to have iron deficiency, whereas 7.7% of M were found to be anemic and 10.2% iron deficient. During the 4 months of army basic training (ABT), anemia and iron deficiency prevalence did not change significantly in any group. After 16-months, anemia prevalence decreased by 8% among F and C F and abated in M. Iron deficiency was prevalent in 50.0, 59.4, and 18.8% of F, C F, and M, respectively. Stress fractures were diagnosed in 14 F during ABT, and they had a significantly higher prevalence (p < 0.05) of anemia and iron deficiency anemia compared to F without SFs. The observed link between anemia and iron deficiency on recruitment day and SFs suggests the importance of screening female combat recruits for these deficiencies. To minimize the health impact of army service on female soldiers, preventative measures related to anemia and iron deficiency should be administered. Further research is needed for evaluating the influence of low iron in kosher meat as a possible explanation for the high prevalence of iron deficiency among young Israeli recruits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3412-3421
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone stress
  • Military basic training
  • Military performance
  • Nutrition


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