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Prosthetics put soldiers back in action

Jan. 10, 2012 at 9:14 PM   |   Comments

BETHESDA, Md., Jan. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. soldiers who lost limbs in war are being put back on the front lines, in some instances, with cutting edge prosthetic technology, medical officials say.

A new microprocessor has allowed the creation of artificial knees in the past three years that are so sophisticated they allow wounded soldiers to perform at the levels necessary in combat, the Defense Department said in a release Tuesday.

Amputee services officials at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., say troops receiving the Genium X2 prosthetic knee include Navy SEALS, members of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team and infantrymen on the front lines.

"We wanted to enable any wounded soldier who has the willingness and ability to go back on active duty," David Laufer, chief of orthotics and prosthetics services, said. "We're not trying to force soldiers, Marines or sailors to go back on active duty after an amputation. We want to give them the opportunity to stay on active duty, and not be limited by their prostheses."

Laufer said right now there aren't enough of the new devices to go around.

Clinic staff members said the ability of severely wounded soldiers to return to duty has a positive impact on troops who have not been wounded.

"They see them bring forward what they already know and realize they can do the jobs they were doing before they were injured," said Charles Scoville, chief of amputee services in the medical center's orthopedics and rehabilitation department. "They learn to respect [those wearing the prosthetic knee], and realize, 'He's not going to hold us back or get us killed.' It also shows them if they are injured, they will be taken care of."

Marine Corps 1st Lt. James Byler, a 26-year-old infantryman who had both legs amputated above the knees after being wounded in Afghanistan, said he took to the X2 quickly. While Byler said he won't be returning to active duty, the prosthetic knees mean he will be able to "walk on the X2 and not even think about it."

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