Blast Induced TBIs

When we think of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), it’s usually the result of direct trauma or having an explosive go off near you. Emerging evidence suggests that service members may be exposed to high levels of blast overpressure (the pressure wave that comes from explosions) when firing heavy weapons, such as the Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle, even in training. DoD studies have also found higher rates of concussion and post-concussion associated symptoms among individuals with a history of prolonged exposure to low-level blasts from breaching and shoulder-fired weapons.

TBI is the signature wound of today’s wars. While a relatively low-level concern at the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, by 2007 head injuries exceeded chest or abdominal injuries as those most treated by the U.S. military. Classified broadly as injuries that affect normal brain function, TBI can result from a blow to the head, fall, or penetrating injury. More insidious, however, are injuries resulting from blast overpressure waves impacting the brain. These can occur from explosions, such as from IEDs used by insurgents in recent wars. Soldiers are also repeatedly exposed to blast overpressure when firing heavy weapons, such as anti-tank recoilless rifles or heavy caliber (.50) rifles. Blast-induced TBI can be extremely difficult to detect and diagnose. There are no externally visible signs of brain trauma and many of the symptoms of mild TBI overlap with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These factors make determining blast-induced TBI and its severity exceedingly complicated.

Full Report by the CNAS for the Army Research Laboratory can be found here

PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan–Private first class Erik Park from San Mateo, California, fires his M-777 155mm howitzer, Sep. 3. Park – who is in 3rd Platoon, Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, is the number one man on the five-man numbered team that operates the massive weapon system. He was 12 years old on 9/11. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar, 7th MPAD)

The US Marine Corps (USMC) M-198 155mm Howitzer gun crew of 4th Battalion, 14th Marines, Mike Battery, Gun 4, left to Right, Gunnery Sergeant (GYSGT) Justin Grafton, Cannoneer Private First Class (PFC) Matthew Camp, Section Chief Sergeant (SGT) Mike Dasher, Cannoneer Lance Corporal (LCPL) Josh Rosenberger, Cannoneer Corporal (CPL) Will McGee, Ammunition Team Chief CPL Jonathan Layman and Cannoneer LCPL Jonathan Fox. Marines at Camp Fallujah, Iraq (IRQ), engage enemy targets in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

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