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Military Brain Trauma is Big Problem

Posted Sep 14 2008 4:42pm

This article in the Toronto Star uncovers the problem of mild brain trauma in the military. Because of better body armor, soldiers are surviving explosions that might have killed them before. Even soldiers a fair distance away from an explosion can experience brain trauma. This brain injury and the symptoms caused by it often don't show up till sometime after the injury. The connection is then often missed when the soldier later experiences neurological or psychological problems.

Those who are worst hit may lose consciousness, or suffer seizures and convulsions. Moderately affected troops may experience vomiting, numbness in the arms and legs, and nausea.

But mild brain injuries can cause memory loss, sleep disturbances, confusion, dizziness and blurred vision – symptoms that zealous soldiers or their superiors might shrug off as unimportant. They may also be classified as psychological.

"Events that cause head injury are the same ones that cause post-traumatic stress disorder. And some people have components of both," says Jaffin. In moderate as well as severe cases, the brain's attempts to heal itself can cause epilepsy, as it "miswires" neural circuits. In other cases, victims suffer personality changes that make them unable to lead a normal life."

"The challenge is to find out about those who are further from the centre of the explosion," he says. "A blast wave hits and a soldier may be knocked unconscious for two seconds. Then he gets up and says `I feel great.' Even a CAT scan may be negative. But the question is, will he develop a problem in the future?"

If this is true in the military, think about the number of people involved in a car accident. Or those who have played football and received a mild concussion? Since writing about my own discovery regarding a brain injury from a car accident 34 years ago, I have found myself asking people who have been chronically ill, "have you ever been in a car accident?" It astounds me the number who say yes. This is not proof and requires better research but it sure makes a lot of sense for people who have been "sick" for a long period of time to ask themselves, "Did my symptoms start sometime shortly after a car accident?" Or sports injury?

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