Murderball and Walter Reed Hospital

June 2, 2005 — Leave a comment

For my birthday on Monday, my wife took me to see Murderball, an excellent documentary about the sport of wheelchair rugby and the men who play it. The gist of the sport is that paraplegics and quadriplegics compete to move a ball down a basketball court and through a goal. They zoom around on heavily-modified wheelchairs, and the way to stop an opponent from advancing with the ball is to smash into them, preferably knocking them over.

I was actually a little disappointed that the movie didn’t show more of the games, but really, it was about the people who compete. Fair enough. I highly recommend it if it gets theatrical distribution (and no doubt it will be available on DVD).

At the end of the movie, the USA team, after having competed in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, are giving a demonstration of the sport to patients at Walter Reed Army Hospital, where injured soldiers are treated. As you would expect, the war in Iraq has been devastating to the Army, leading to lots of soldiers who are missing limbs. But two things really made me pause. One, the soldiers at the demonstration looked like kids; a couple couldn’t have been even 20. And two, as they’re organizing teams to play a test match, one of the coordinators says (and I’m writing this from memory), “Okay, Navy, Marines, and Air Force, form a team. Army, you’re the other team.”

It makes sense that Army is taking a high share of casualties in Iraq, but I hadn’t thought about it in those terms until the numbers were suggested this way in the movie.

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