The Next Basic Training in the Heartland
The Value of Golf to Our Veterans
Editor’s Note: Dr. Michael J. Hall, a neuropsychologist with the Iowa VA Medical Center in Iowa City, Iowa, was a guest speaker at a GIVE (Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere) Pro-Am conducted Aug. 19, at the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside, Iowa.
What has been your experience as to how golf affects the affects the rehabilitation of our veterans?
Issues related to post-combat do not just affect the veteran – it affects the whole family structure. How I see this program and golf in general, it essentially is with the degree of physical injuries that we are seeing, the cognitive problems and the emotional problems, that golf really serves the specific role of being accessible to a large population. It’s also something that is something that people generally gravitate towards.
So, I see the direct result of being increased self-esteem, increased self confidence – something that has been eroded essentially by having such a change from maybe how they were before deployment or maybe how they were during deployment.
Anything that we can do to build self-confidence, self-efficacy, and to bring the families in as a unit, because again, it’s not that one person, it’s the family structure, it’s the community.
All of these things together with what we can do at the VA, together with what we can do in other arenas, it really does takes the community coming together.
I see golf as a particularly effective area in bringing the veterans back to engaging in activities that are of interest and that really get them to be physical again.
How important is a program like Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere?
One of my concerns is that people say that this is just golf. It is not just golf, it is more than golf. Golf is a venue again to create a positive environment, positive experiences.
One of the good things to hear is that the GIVE program is growing here. It is essential to capitalizing on the success of a program and spreading it out.
We have something good here, but essentially what we need to do is to replicate what works and to not do what doesn’t work. This is something that works.
I have had patients come through here with multiple different disabilities and I have only heard positive things. I have only seen joy and happiness light up their face when they talk about it.
Sometimes that is the only time I see that emotion. Granted I am focused on problem areas, but it’s a big deal.
It’s not something that shouldn’t be dismissed, because it’s golf.
Those activities of daily living that we all take for granted. The veterans don’t have that luxury any more, particularly those that are injured.
The GIVE program’s supporters, the PGA Professional as well as other volunteers, believe the door is open to expand to other Iowa sites, allowing opportunities for more veterans and their families. The record of success stories is impressive. What have you seen?
With The PGA’s involvement there’s a connection. There’s a working relationship that is incredibly helpful.
People come back from deployment with many issues, and this is not just about the current veterans. It goes back to Vietnam, Korea, some World War II veterans who are getting beyond the age when they can really play golf.
These are experiences that we can not erase from people’s pasts, but certainly anything we can do for these veterans, to enhance their quality of life is critical.
I don’t look at this program as just minimal.
For those who have yet to learn about this program, they need to understand that this is not a minor thing. This is a major thing for a lot of people. It’s the first step on the long road to recovery.
About Dr. Michael J. Hall
Dr. Hall is a staff neuropsychologist at the VA Medical Center in Iowa City. He received his masters and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from Kent State University. His predoctoral internship was at the University of Massachusetts Medical School/Worcester State Hospital and he completed a two-year fellowship in clinical neuropsychology at Harvard Medical School. His clinical Interests include neuropsychological assessment, psychotherapy, psychological assessment, supervision and teaching, and research. He is a member of the Polytrauma, PCT, and recovery teams. His research interests include the co-morbidity of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), including attempting to determine ways of differentiating the effects of both disorders. Dr. Hall is currently funded for research assessing the consequences of TBI on cognition, psychiatric/psychological functioning, and functional and structural neuroimaging.