Treatment and rehabilitation of injured soldiers are the responsibility of the public health service, however Rigshospitalet and the Danish Defence have established a unique and untraditional collaboration.
Daily rehabilitation of soldiers is carried out at Rigshospitalet’s Department of Occupational and Physiotherapy together with other patients. And once a week there is supplementary training at the Danish Defence Centre of Physical Training and Education at Svanemøllen Kaserne (an Army barracks in north Copenhagen) together with fellow soldiers and other veterans, and supervised by one of Rigshospitalet’s physiotherapists. It sounds like an odd mixture, but the model in which Rigshospitalet and the Danish Defence have set up a comprehensive rehabilitation programme for war veterans is extremely effective and very popular among soldiers.“After treatment and rehabilitation at Rigshospitalet, but also in parallel with this, it can be good for veterans to exercise in a completely different environment. Therefore, together with Rigshospitalet’s physiotherapists, we have implemented a weekly training session each Wednesday afternoon at Svanemøllen Kaserne. At hospitals, veterans are among many other patients, who don’t necessarily know about their situation as a soldier. However, at the weekly training sessions, the soldiers meet other veterans and soldiers who are not injured, and this motivates them and adds a new social dimension to their lives,” says Major General Erik Darre, head of the Danish Defence Health Service.
Rigshospitalet’s physiotherapists in barracksThe weekly training sessions are carried out in collaboration between Rune Oland, a sports consultant from the Sports Confederation of Denmark’s soldier project, and Christian Olsen, physiotherapist responsible for the soldiers’ rehabilitation. By incorporating the military environment, Rigshospitalet’s physiotherapists also have a new workplace.“In this way, we have established a form of bridge-building between us and the Danish Defence. Together we have employed a physiotherapist specifically to assist in the Wednesday training sessions, so that when the veterans are training at the barracks, they have a contact person, who is also connected to Rigshospitalet and our work here. Therefore, veterans will always have a hotline to Rigshospitalet and to our dedicated physiotherapists. Veterans may need to rehabilitate for long periods; even after several years. Therefore, this scheme makes good sense,” says Birgit Strange Head of Department of Occupational and Physiotherapy.“Collaboration between Rigshospitalet’s physiotherapists and the Sports Confederation of Denmark’s soldier project at the Centre of Physical Training and Education at Svanemøllen Kaserne also means that the various fitness programmes for our injured soldiers have been adapted to the treatment and rehabilitation by the health services,” adds Erik Darre.
Formula 1 physiotherapyRigshospitalet is also benefiting from this new and different collaboration:“This model is very flexible in relation to the number of soldiers at Rigshospitalet. It provides great interaction; the soldiers bring with them a drive and energy that rubs off on the other patients. We have also received funds through the veteran policy to maintain and replace exercise equipment, as there is more wear and tear on the machines, because veterans are stronger than our other patients,” says Birgit Strange.This perception regarding help for other patients is backed by the Danish Defence:“In this way, we have a sort of ‘Formula 1 rehabilitation’; physiotherapy is further developed, and this benefits the other patients,” says Erik Darre.At a recent international medical conference, a number of countries showed interest in the Danish collaboration on rehabilitation of veterans.
The Wednesday training sessions at Svanemøllen Kaserne are offered to all injured soldiers who are in rehabilitation or who have been in rehabilitation at Rigshospitalet. About eight-ten veterans attend the sessions every week. One of the veterans drives several hundred kilometres for the Wednesday training sessions. The rehabilitation is a collaboration between Rigshospitalet, the Danish Defence Health Service and the Sports Confederation of Denmark’ soldier project.The Sports Confederation of Denmark’s soldier project, which is a collaboration between the Danish Disability Sports Federation and the Danish Military Sports Federation, develops exercise programmes for soldiers who have been injured in connection with deployment.Several of the injured soldiers taking part in the rehabilitation are amputees. Since 1992, 18 soldiers have been registered with 25 amputations as a result of combat or terrorism. The first double amputations were seen in 2009. In addition, many veterans suffer from invisible injuries, such as pain, and therefore have also benefited from periodical rehabilitation.