- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2020

A decadelong push by the Pentagon has brought to light the startling frequency of brain injuries within the ranks of the U.S. military, helping to erase the concept that concussions can be simply brushed off.

Much like the National Football League and other corners of American society, the military has only relatively recently begun to delve deeply into brain injuries, their prevalence and the impact they could have on morale and performance. Here is what you need to know:

  • Head injuries and long-term brain damage, once largely dismissed as a lesser health concern, are getting an increasingly intense focus from the Pentagon.
  • More than 100 U.S. service personnel were treated for ‘traumatic brain injuries’ (TBI) in the weeks after an Iranian missile attack on U.S. positions in Iraq in January, after the Pentagon first reported no injuries.
  • Since 2000, more than 408,000 cases of TBI have been diagnosed in American military personnel serving globally.
  • U.S. veterans groups are increasingly vocal about the short- and long-term damage to service personnel from traumatic brain injuries.
  • The Pentagon has instituted new screening protocols that now monitor service members for days and weeks after a potentially dangerous incident.
  • Most military TBI cases are caused not by blast injuries or missile strikes, but by the same events that result in brain injuries in the civilian population, specialists say.

“If you go back through thousands of years of military history, go back to the Greeks and the Romans, they talked about people who were wounded warriors, or the walking wounded, shell-shocked — every war has had some term for them. What we’ve not had are good ways to evaluate these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at the time that they were injured or afterwards, when they came and sought care,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, Joint Staff surgeon, recently told reporters at the Pentagon.

“We recognized this beginning early in the current conflicts and began working with the [Department of Veterans Affairs], as well as with the NCAA, the NFL and other stakeholders to develop a series of screening measures, which we’ve updated over the years, and we’re able to use very effectively during this event,” he added.


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