Red Bulls: Beyond Deployment

War injuries by the numbers

by Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
February 8, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — According to the Military Health System, roughly 60 percent of all injuries troops suffer while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are musculoskeletal injuries--things like back pain, sprained ankles and joint problems.

Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, director of strategic communications for the Military Health System, said ankle problems are No. 1, followed by knee issues, then lower back injuries.

Many of those injuries can linger, leading veterans to seek medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to the VA, nearly 500,000 veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have sought medical care through the VA for everything from flu symptoms to back pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.Many have sought care for more than one ailment.


-- 51 percent of patients are being seen for musculoskeletal issues
-- 47 percent of patients are being seen for mental health issues

Many injuries are permanent or take a long time to heal, so many veterans end up filing claims for disability benefits with the VA. Below are the 10 most frequent types of disabilities that the veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered, according to the VA. Five of them are musculoskeletal issues.


About 1.9 million troops have served in Iraq or Afghanistan since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and roughly 20 percent of them have service-related disabilities. The nearly 400,000 disabled Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have a wide range of disabilities, and many have multiple disabilities.

The graphic below shows the most frequent service-connected disabilities for this group of disabled veterans.

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs | MPR Graphic/Than Tibbetts

Kilpatrick said the Military Health System is working with the VA and the Department of Defense to find ways to prevent injuries, including designing body armor and gear that doesn't weigh as much.

"All of these injuries are being tracked, not just the injuries people are dying from," he said.