Green Room

Wii and Our Injured Troops

posted at 8:09 pm on April 17, 2009 by

As technology and medicine keep advancing, our troops are surviving more injuries that would have been lethal in even recent years. A lost arm or leg is more than most of us could bear, but it’s infinitely better than a lost life.

Brain injuries are rapidly becoming some of the most amazing, even surreal, survival stories — but unless they’re particularly grievous, they can be missed and left untreated. Fortunately, some very interesting testing is going on.

Every soldier who’s gone to war in the past year paused before leaving to take a brain test: basic math, matching numbers and symbols and identifying patterns to measure response time and accuracy. Now that some of these troops have returned, they’re taking a fresh round of tests, all part of a broad effort by the military to better treat head injuries.

Smart, smart, smart. I might argue that this should have started years ago, but the technology is certainly ready now. So, better late than never, I guess.

The tests alone can’t diagnose traumatic brain injuries, the signature injury of the wars, potentially crippling and sometimes hard to detect damage from blows that can include an exploding roadside bomb, a mortar blast or a vehicle crash.

But they help doctors zero in on which mental functions are damaged and the best way to treat that by comparing an individual soldier’s brain function before and after the injury.

Check this out:

Soldiers go through a battery of tests to measure different cognitive functions. Visual tests show how fast and accurately a soldier can recognize letters, a driving simulator gives soldiers the feeling of driving under different environmental conditions and a Nintendo Wii game system, with its motion-sensitive controller, helps with coordination skills.

Once a soldier’s individual deficiencies are identified, therapy can be designed to help retrain the brain to overcome those problems, [Dr. David] Twillie [director of a newly opened brain injury care center at Fort Campbell] said.

So cool. And there’s an additional set of tests for what I assume is PTSD, and training that helps them to focus in stressful situations that are very similar to the incident where they received the original injury. It not only helps them physically combat the stress and confusion, but as their scores get better, they typically regain much-needed confidence in their abilities too.

Our men and women in uniform deserve all of the treatment we can give them, obviously. The more advanced the better. The fact that it’s not boring must help even more, right?

[The link goes to Dvice, a semi-nerdy technology site — which you can and should check out. The rest of the article, linked from Dvice, is on HuffPo. It’s very cool and inspiring, but I know many of you don’t want to give them traffic, so this is your head’s up.]

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Amazing. I would think that the producers and designers of these devices and programs would be doubly gratified. It’s one thing for an invention to succeed as intended but to have it serve humanity in ways totally unexpected is must be awesome. It would be great to get an interview with the designers to get their impressions.

Cindy Munford on April 17, 2009 at 10:05 PM


Spirit of 1776 on April 18, 2009 at 11:21 AM