Doctors at Fort Campbell are using a mock battlefield to assess whether or not soldiers who have suffered a traumatic brain injury are ready to return to combat. The clinic has been recognized by the Department of Defense as a national model.
“Soldiers are making life and death decisions, so doesn’t it make sense to use demonstrated competence as the standard for returning someone to duty?” Dr. David Twillie told National Public Radio‘s Blake Farmer.
In exercises meant to simulate scenarios they face when fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers sweep a gravel road for possible roadside bombs, take fire from insurgents and are told to insert chest tubes and tie tourniquets while listening to sound from a scene in Saving Private Ryan. The goal is to assess how well the soldiers handle the stress of the situations. Patients must also take written tests that assess their competence. The combination of both simulated and written assessments is important.
“Very recently we had a soldier that had a desire to stay in, had done well in all our simulations,” Twillie said. “But when all the different sights, sounds, smells came back, he just wasn’t able to change his focus, and that’s very important in combat.”
Memory loss, mood swings and difficulties balancing are common symptoms of a traumatic brain injury. About 115,000 soldiers have experienced such an injury, the Defense Department estimates. (Read more)