Study followed 4,100 soldiers until four years after their return home
WEDNESDAY, July 9, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Muscle, bone and joint injuries, as well as mental health disorders, are the main reasons why U.S. soldiers who served in Iraq left the military, a new study finds.
Researchers followed more than 4,100 Army soldiers, aged 18 to 52, from the start of a 15-month deployment in Iraq in 2006 until the end of four years after their return to the United States.
Among those who were unable to return to a military career after the deployment, 60 percent had muscle, bone or joint injuries and nearly half had mental health conditions, according to the study published recently in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
Low back pain, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder were the most common reasons why soldiers left the military.
The researchers also found that lower rank was associated with an increased likelihood of a soldier leaving the military after suffering physical or mental injuries during deployment in Iraq.
"Our findings indicate a substantial burden in deployment-related injuries and disability that result from exposure to the combat environment. They also highlight influences that may impede a person's ability to return to work after similar injuries in the civilian sector," study author Dr. Andrew Schoenfeld, of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, said in a university news release.
He noted that the study participants "not only included infantry fighters but also doctors, truck drivers, cooks, mechanics, legal clerks and others with various positions with the Army -- and most of the injuries weren't related to combat."
Along with having long-lasting physical effects, injuries may cause mental health problems that hamper physical recovery, according to Schoenfeld.
"Our findings suggest that trauma from the incident that caused the injury may not only have long-lasting negative mental health effects but may also impede the physical recovery itself," Schoenfeld said.
"In the civilian world, people may experience the same kind of injuries from events such as car or motorcycle accidents. Recollection of the accident that caused the injury, witnessing a loved one get hurt or killed or complications stemming from the injury may also be triggers for psychological issues that cause difficulties for recovery," he explained.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about injuries and wounds (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/woundsandinjuries.html ).
SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, July 2, 2014