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But during the last 10 years the flood of young amputees requires treatments and devices to help them regain the active lifestyle they so suddenly lost.Seeing these soldiers as wounded athletes rather than patients, the military has modeled the recovery program after a sports medical clinic.With modern body armor, better-protected vehicles, improved medic training and rapid evacuations, U. soldiers survive battlefield wounds nearly 90 percent of the time.Smith would have died if his injuries had occurred in Vietnam.

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A third amputee threw a football over the hospital beds with a therapist.

One recent morning a pair of 20-something soldiers wearing black shorts and gray T-shirts with the word Army printed in black jogged beside a busy street near the entrance to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

As they ran past the line of cars and headed toward the military gate, the four prosthetic legs they wore matched each other stride for stride.

One patient sidestepped ankle high hurdles while another lifted his new legs over a row of rubber sports cones, tapping the tip of each small cone with his prosthetic foot before setting it down on the other side.

Occasionally someone fell onto the red and blue rubber track. The newest generation of artificial joints better approximates the human knee and ankle.

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