🔵 Former Navy SEAL Medic researching how to protect military from IED injuries

🔵 Shane Kronstedt has been studying genital and urologic injuries from IED blasts

🔵 He has both short term and long-term goals stemming from his research

A former medic with the U.S. Navy SEALS set to graduate with a doctorate degree from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is also the lead author on a study looking into genital and urologic combat injuries as a result of an IED blast.

Shane Kronstedt said he specifically researched and published a study looking into combat and IED injuries including genital urinary trauma that occurred during the first 13-years of the War in Afghanistan and Iraq and combined it with what he learned treating patients.

"What I saw was that there was really no data after 2013," Kronstedt said.

He wanted those answers, wanted to know more, but needed some more help.

"I paired up with these guys at the U.S. Army Surgical Research Institute and we looked at data from 2007 until 2020 and we looked at 26,000 patients," Kronstedt said. "What we did was not just look at military but at NATO, local civilians, and Partners for Soldiers as well as the U.S. Military."

(Photo: Rutgers University New Jersey Medical School)
(Photo: Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School)

With more people now involved with the study and more data to look for answers, they expanded their search to include data from looking into what was happening in places like Syria and Libia.

They started making some discoveries into what was happening with these IED blasts and what isn't being reported or known about these critical injuries.

"It's one of those things that I think is underrepresented," Kronstedt said.

Of the patients they saw, about 7-14 percent, had sustained some level of a urinary or genital injury.

"People were getting all this genital urinary trauma and it was associated with 80-percent association with IED's," Kronstedt said.

COVID infusion therapy
(Getty Stock)

There is the physical toll it takes on a soldier who suffers this type of injury and trauma, but emotional and mental as well.

"If you can imagine being 25 (years old) and having your genitals blown off, that can be pretty life-altering mentally, physically," Kronstedt said.

He said many of these patients have other injuries on top of the genital trauma as well.

"Usually, this is seen in a pretty severe injury, most of the time it's explosives, sometimes gunshots -- they're suffering from TBI's, amputations, injuries to the abdomen, chest, different areas," Kronstedt said. "It's a tough process for rehab for these patients."

Even with what they've learned so far in this study, they are hoping to learn even more about what's happened, what is happening, and how to work towards lowering the risk of it happening as well as treating the soldier who does suffer genital trauma from an IED blast.

Doctor in hospital background with copy space
Getty Images/iStockphoto

"The blast rate itself can damage the testicles and really create these changes," Kronstedt said.

A physician at U.T. Southwestern in the Dallas area also researched this topic, Kronstedt said, and it led to the shared discovery of some of the damage that a man can sustain with such an injury.

"They found even that they were seeing these microscopic changes leading to infertility even for the patients who didn't have any of the overt injuries, just being exposed to those injuries as well," Kronstedt said.

Now that they have more of the data, what they've learned in terms of reporting and frequency is that this type of genital urinary trauma from an IED blast is getting worse over time.

"I think it's a growing problem because we used to see this as low as 2-5 percent, originally, in some of the earlier wars and then we started seeing it climb up to 5 percent in the early Afghanistan/Iraq time frame," Kronstedt said.

Mortar Training In Afghanistan
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Those numbers later spiked to 13-percent of overall combat injuries that are genital-urinary trauma.

Kronstedt is hoping for his study and research will help lead to changes in the military to help in trying to prevent these types of genital-urinary trauma injuries from combat.

"One thing we hope to do is -- there's really not a lot of good data for tracking long term outcomes with these patients," Kronstedt said. "It becomes a challenge when you have the Military healthcare system and then you have the trauma registry and then you have the Veteran Affairs medical system and then you have the civilian healthcare systems.

The large majority of Veterans don't use the V.A., a large portion go use the private sector and everyone has a different healthcare system and it's very challenging to link these patients through all these different pathways and even try to find out where they are now."

They also want to study the long-term outcomes and the effects, if any, on fertility in sexual health.

Kronstedt said that the study team is currently recruiting people and asking those who've been a patient after suffering this type of trauma to fill out a survey for the TOUGH program.

(Photo: Rutgers University New Jersey Medical School)
(Photo: Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School)

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