As weapons of war have changed, so have the types of injuries sustained by service members deployed to war zones. Traumatic brain injuries have become an all-too-common injury seen in those who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s estimated that since 2001, as many as 327,000 vets have been diagnosed with TBI.
The problem of TBI in the military became so serious that in 2008 Congress passed the Traumatic Brain Injury Act. It requires the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of TBIs. The Veterans Administration spends approximately $32 million on TBI research annually.
The Office of Naval Research developed a portable system called the Blast Load Assessment Sense and Test that could prove to be a big step forward in TBI research. The device consists of small sensors placed on body armor and helmets.
Because the sensors are designed to be able to survive blasts, they can record data on the effect of the blast suffered by the service member. This data can be accessed by medical personnel treating service members in the field or even by the person wearing the protective gear.
The technology is still being tested. However, the plan is to deliver it to both the Navy and the Marines within the next five years.
Of course, this and other extensive work by the military into measuring impacts to the head that can cause brain injury can help civilian researchers as they work to find ways to diagnose and treat TBIs. All may help minimize the long-term effects of brain injury.
Source: Military Times, “Naval Research seeks to tackle traumatic brain injury,” Shawn Snow, Jan. 13, 2017