Military medical officials have expressed concern over an increase in spinal injuries among U.S. troops coming home from Afghanistan. Afghan insurgents have responded to the increased presence of heavily armored U.S. vehicles with larger and more powerful roadside explosives.
Roadside bombs have become the top killer of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only do the roadside bombs lead to crushed spines and other spinal injuries, they also result intraumatic brain injuries when soldiers are exposed to blasts, even with no impact to the head.
A USA Today story reported that the recent increase in spinal injuries occurred among soldiers in Afghanistan and not Iraq. The increase in spinal cord injuries among troops has arisen due to increased potency in roadside bombs used by insurgents. The U.S. Military issued 3500 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles as an attempt to deal with the roadside bombings. Unfortunately, Afghanistan insurgents responded with stronger and larger bombs.
Some of the 3500 MRAP vehicles deployed in Afghanistan have been lifted a few feet off the ground by roadside bomb explosions. Even though the MRAP vehicle may remain intact, some soldiers have suffered serious spinal cord injuries in the explosions. The MRAP vehicles cost about $1.4 million.
Medical professionals and Army engineers are comparing data to explore possible alterations and improvements to the MRAP vehicle design to make it safer for soldiers who are exposed to increasing roadside bomb possibilities. The MRAP vehicles, which cost about $1.4 million to make, have a hull designed in a V-shape, which helps to deflect the force of explosions away from the center of the vehicle, the USA Today article reported.
Since there are very few paved roads in Afghanistan, rebels can easily bury roadside explosives in the dirt roads, undetectable to soldiers driving along the roads at high speeds. Although the military has recently send over newer and lighter MRAP vehicles with better seating and harnesses, more improvements are still in the works to ensure the vehicles are safe for combat.
Doctors are matching up data on injuries with the victims’ positions in the vehicles at the time of the explosion and the vehicle type in which the accident occurred. Their hope is that engineers will be able to use the data to design more explosion-proof MRAP vehicles and to prevent any further incidence of spinal cord injuries if possible. USA Today reported that a doctor in Kandahar is currently at work designing a shock-absorbing seat that would provide a better guard against spinal cord injuries.
- Zoroya, Gregg. (November 5, 2009). ‘Spinal Injuries Up Among Troops.’ Retrieved December 6, 2009 from the USA Today website:http://www.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2009-11-04-1Aied04_ST_U.htm?csp=34