December 15, 2017

Congress Mandates New DoD Study Central to Understanding TBI

By Lauren Fish and Paul Scharre

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the signature wound of today's conflicts, affecting more than 370,000 service members, and emerging evidence suggests troops may be exposed to hazards to the brain during training as well.

TBI can come from many causes: falls, vehicle accidents, bullets, shrapnel, etc. In recent years, researchers have begun to understand that the primary blast pressure wave from explosions can also damage the brain, although the specific mechanism of injury from blast pressure is poorly understood.

Most concerning, emerging evidence suggests that service members may be exposed to significant levels of blast overpressure when firing heavy weapons, such as recoilless rifles, even in training.

Recent Defense Department studies have found that blast exposure from firing heavy weapons in training, such as the Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle, is associated with short-term cognitive deficits.

Even when used within currently approved firing limits, DoD studies have demonstrated that some service members may experience short-term deficits in delayed verbal memory, visual-spatial memory, and executive function after firing heavy weapons.

Read the full commentary at Military.com.

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