1 in 3 US Military Injuries in Iraq, Afghanistan Weren't on Battlefield

Among nearly 30,000 U.S. service members who've been injured during military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, about one-third were due to non-battlefield events such as vehicular accidents, falls or equipment mishaps, new research shows.

These types of non-battle injuries also accounted for about one in every 10 fatalities among soldiers injured in these conflicts, according to a study published May 30 in JAMA Surgery.

The new research was led by Dr. Tuan Le, of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. His group looked at Department of Defense data on nearly 30,000 service members injured in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014.

Non-battle injuries comprised just over 34 percent of injuries and 11.5 percent of deaths among service members treated at a medical military facility during that time, the research showed.

The rate of non-battle injuries was higher among women (63 percent) than men (33 percent), and in the Air Force (66 percent) and Navy (48 percent) than in members of the Army (35 percent) and Marine Corps (26 percent), the study found.

Falls made up 21 percent of non-battle injuries and vehicular accidents nearly 19 percent, the findings showed.

However, there was one silver lining to the report, said Dr. Todd Rasmussen, an associate dean of research at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. He wrote an accompanying commentary to the study.

"Not to be overlooked are successes identified in this analysis, such as the relatively low rate of unintentional firearm injury," said Rasmussen, who wasn't involved in the study. "The fact that only 728 service members sustained an inadvertent firearm injury during a 12-year period in which hundreds of thousands of troops were deployed with a great assortment of weaponry is notable."

That statistic "points to the professionalism of military members as it relates to possessing firearms as well as the success of training and safety initiatives," Rasmussen said.

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