We’ve already told you about the history of BADER Consortium, including the way the name plays off the heroism of Sir Douglas Bader, a Royal Air Force fighter who lost both legs in a plane crash. He not only continued to fly during World War II, he shot down 22 German planes before being taken as a prisoner of war.
Now we’re going to share how BADER Consortium – which stands for Bridging Advanced Developments for Exceptional Rehabilitation – aims to help today’s wounded military not only recover from their limb injuries but live a life as full as possible. That means making sure injured and recovering warriors are not just getting around with their prostheses, but finding their optimal level of function, whether that’s returning to active duty, running or competing against other athletes with limb loss.
The goal of BADER – funded through a five-year, $19.7 million medical research grant from the Department of Defense – is to continue the advancements in the treatment of military amputees and create a culture of research in musculoskeletal trauma and limb loss across the the participating institutions.
To do that, BADER works with four military treatment facilities to strengthen evidence-based orthopedic rehabilitation care. They are: San Antonio Military Medical Center/Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, Tex.; Naval Medical Center San Diego in California; Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. In addition, BADER is partnering with six clinical rehabilitation sites: Spaulding National Running Center in Cambridge, Mass.; Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn; the University of Delaware; the University of Texas at Austin, the Denver Rehabilitation Institute; and New York University.
Why do this? For starters, these wounded warriors deserve it as thanks for the sacrifices they’ve made during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 1,500 soldiers have suffered battle-related limb loss between 2001 through 2013 while serving in Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. And while more soldiers are surviving in greater numbers than previous wars, they also tend to have more severe orthopaedic injuries, most coming from high-velocity weapons and improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
One study found that 80 percent of those who survive blast injuries are eventually discharged from the military. With the cost of recruiting and basic combat training pegged around $50,000 per recruit, those discharges come at a cost of about $50 million in lost training, not accounting for the medical and prosthetic expenditures.
Only about 17 percent of soldiers with amputations return to active duty.
For wounded soldiers whose idea of an optimal outcome includes returning to duty, simply receiving a prosthesis and the possibility of regaining some – but not all – mobility is not enough.
The wars may be winding down, but the need for ongoing research into amputee care continues.
BADER wants to support this research – and grow the future of amputee care – by helping medical treatment facilities with scientific expertise, a safe place to house data and help with recruiting human subjects for studies and trials. BADER Consortium already has established a partnership with the National Institutes of Health to create the first clinical trials database used outside of the NIH. This database provides key support for projects engaged by BADER and military treatment facilities.
BADER Consortium is involved in funding five studies to help lower-limb amputees and three studies on outcomes measures for amputees. Each has a different focus and goal.
- A study team based at the University of Texas at Austin aims to use a virtual-reality training intervention to improve step-to-step control of walking in transtibial – or below-the-knee – amputees.
- Another team at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is developing biofeedback strategies to help leg amputees get back to running.
- Researchers at New York University, Naval Medical Center in San Diego and Brooke Army Medical Center/Center for the Intrepid are benchmarking outcome care levels for orthopaedic rehabilitation.
- A team at University of Colorado, Boulder and Eastern Colorado Department of Veteran Affairs is seeking a science-based method for prescribing a running-specific prosthesis.
- K2Power is the name of a study at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with the goal of identifying differences in gait, efficiency and quality of life between using a standard prosthesis and a powered BiOM ankle prosthesis.
- Researchers at five sites are developing a so-called toolbox of outcome measures for use across research studies and clinical evaluations.
- Three Texas-based sites are working on the MORE project – short for Maximizing Outpatient Rehabilitation Effectiveness – to assess rehabilitation outcomes to support evidence-based practice in military treatment facilities.
- A study team at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Minneapolis VA Health Care System and University of Minnesota is determining the criteria for prescribing prosthetic ankle-foot components for service members with amputations who want to perform physically demanding tasks.
In future blog posts, we’ll detail these studies we’re funding as well as the researchers who are working to help some of America’s best return to their high level of performance.