When we think of blast trauma, we may associate these injuries with soldiers on active battlefields. Unfortunately the recent events of the horrific and deadly bombing in April at the Boston Marathon brought fear and shock into our own backyard.
Two powerful bombs exploded at the finish line of the annual marathon, killing three people and injuring more than one hundred. The marathon attracts over 23,000 runners and over three quarters had already passed through the finish line.
"This was a powerful blast; there were serious injuries," Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told reporters during a briefing.
Blast injuries cause a pressure effect from the concussion of the explosion, which can rupture eardrums and intestines. The severity of the damage is in part caused by how close you are to the blast and the severity of the pressure waves reflected back to the victim, states Dr. Michael Hoffer.
The injuries sustained during this horrific event were better understood and managed in part to the acclaimed research conducted by Dr. Michael Hoffer and Dr. Carey Balaban and a group of colleagues about the effects of blast trauma across the battlefields of Iraq. Their research was viewed more than 500 times in the days after the blast.
As a military physician, Dr. Hoffer’s work on traumatic brain injury is logical when one considers the magnitude of the issue. The statistics are astounding for returning wounded soldiers. As of February 2013, over 50,000 men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan were wounded. 103,792 were diagnosed with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and 253,230 with TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury.
Dr. Michael Hoffer is an active duty Navy Captain. He recognizes the nature of the trauma that these returning soldiers face. These injuries can cause brain damage and potential neurological consequences and often result in injuries to multiple organs including the brain and the lungs.
Dr. Michael Hoffer asserts that individuals exposed to a blast often have memory loss, confusion, headaches, an impaired sense of reality and reduced decision-making abilities. The symptoms do not always manifest immediately after the blast and may take years to come to light. At that point the injury is classed as a secondary brain injury. The usual symptoms are chronic fatigue, headaches, weight loss, memory loss, problems with speech and balance.
Dr. Michael Hoffer Explains the Benefits of Underwater Diving for Wounded Vets
There are many organizations that work with returning wounded vets offering physical and occupational therapy, sports and recreational programs, and re-education supporting not only the vets but their families as well. One of the most notable is The Wounded Warriors Project. The organization notes one of the most successful forms of rehabilitation is underwater scuba diving.
The project started in 2004, largely because several individuals with underwater training cared enough to get involved.
The key benefits are:
● strengthens core muscles, increases endurance and improves balance
● a sense of freedom and weightlessness
● mental benefits with renewed confidence
● water is a great equalizer and diving is a positive catalyst
Listed below are several organizations that offer the scuba diving program for wounded vets
● SUDS: Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba - sudsdiving.org
● The Air Warrior Courage Foundation - airwarriorcourage.org
● Wounded Warriors Project - woundedwarriorproject.org
● Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre
● Brooke Army Medical Center
● Naval Medical Center San Diego
● Ocean Enterprises Dive Center San Diego
Garth Roe, a Marine whose leg was shattered by gunfire in 2009 while serving with the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion in Afghanistan, notes "I was in therapy and still in rough shape the first time I used scuba in a pool" As Roe notes "and it was such a relief. The pain didn't go away, but it dropped way down. And diving in the ocean is even better — it lets me forget about my injury for a while."
Dr. Michael Hoffer knows the healing benefits and the success of the diving program as he works closely with wounded vets as the Director of the Spatial Orientation Center at Naval Medical Center, San Diego.