06 December 2010

New policy helps protects troops from repeated exposure to blasts

Although it's hard for guys to be taken out of combat (for them and for their units), the long-term risk of brain damage is now taking priority due to a new, unprecedented policy.

Military doctors are diagnosing hundreds of concussions among combat troops because of an unprecedented order requiring them to leave the battlefield for 24 hours after being exposed to a blast.

Doctors say the order helps prevent permanent brain damage that can result if a servicemember has a second concussion before the first one heals.

"For the last eight years prior to the implementation of these protocols, we weren't doing things the right way," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff.


Roadside bombs are the most common source of injuries to U.S. troops. Troops in the past tended to shake off blast effects and continue fighting, according to Army field studies.

To treat symptoms of concussions, the military has set up five "rest centers" here [in Afghanistan] where troops can recover, says Army Lt. Col. Kristofer Radcliffe, a neurologist supervising the effort. Scientists warn, however, that it is unclear whether the brain has healed even if symptoms go away.

Read the full article here.

I've spoken with many patients medically evacuated to Germany for further testing as a result of this and prior, smiliar policies. They are almost universally disappointed to have been taken out of the fight, but I hope I've been able to convince at least some of them that the rest of their lives is more important than the rest of their deployments.

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