I hope you will post my question anonymously because I don’t want to be seen as crying over spilt milk. But our 20-year-old son was wounded in Iraq while walking alongside an armored vehicle (with other American soldiers inside). Only the soldiers on the ground were wounded. Everyone else inside the vehicles were safe. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure this one out. Why don’t the military doctors put a stop to this? The amount of personal devastation (not to mention expense of care for the taxpayer) is astronomical.

You ask a very important question and make a very good point. This type of scenario has not gone unnoticed by military surgeons and policy makers. In fact, an article was recently published by military surgeons outlining the number, type, and mechanisms of military spine injuries in the Global War on Terror.

Focusing on ways to minimize complications that occur before, during, and after surgery is one way to aid our wounded warriors. As this studied showed, major and minor complications are fairly common. And multiple complications in many soldiers were typical. They especially focused on complications associated with military spine injuries from these blast munitions intended to penetrate armored vehicles but often hitting dismounted troops.

Major complications occurred in nine per cent of the military spine injuries. Minor complications were reported in six per cent of the total. But the most significant finding was the high number (more than 30 per cent) of complications among the dismounted soldiers who had surgery. And 80 per cent of all complications occurred among the dismounted service members. Military personnel in vehicles when injured made up only 20 per cent of those who had complications with treatment.

Understanding the mechanism of injuries is also important when planning wartime strategies. For example, the data from this study showed that soldiers in armored vehicles suffered fewer and less serious injuries compared with those individuals who were unprotected walking on the ground. The idea behind dismounted troops in today’s war theatre is to “win hearts and minds” of the nationals (people living in those countries) whom we are protecting. But this strategy does expose our soldiers to the risk of blasts from exploding bombs.

How will the military use this information? Protection of our troops is an important goal — whether on the ground, in armored vehicles, during transport following injury, or during and after surgery. Examining the type and number of complications associated with military spine injuries will help with decision-making in the Theater of Battle. Given these findings, the placement of troops on the ground in an unprotected fashion will require some additional thought and consideration by military strategists.