May 24, 2018

Heavy weapons may be damaging troops’ brains

By Lauren Fish

As brain injuries in the NFL gain more attention, the brains of service members are under more scrutiny.

That scrutiny led to the discovery that shoulder mounted heavy weapons may be causing head trauma to troops during training.

“What we now know after doing a lot of research and based on a lot of science is some service members suffer from short term cognitive deficits from heavy weapons usage shot during training exercises,” said Lauren Fish, a research associate at the Center for a New American Security. “While these symptoms dissipate after about 96 hours, we don’t yet know the long term effects.”

The potential for brain injury from frequently used weapons like Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles is making the Defense Department rethink how it protects the brains of its troops.

There is currently no requirement to protect troops’ from blast waves even though primary blast pressure waves are mechanisms for brain injury.

CNAS made a number of recommendations on how DoD can protect troops’ heads during training.

One suggestion is to create a log of blasts troops are exposed to in order to track pressure to the brain.

The log would give troops something to show the Veterans Affairs Agency when they leave the military to prove any health issues caused by the blasts.


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