Traumatic Brain Injury in Combat: When Blasts Damage the Brain

Traumatic brain injuries have been called the “signature wound” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While improvements in armor and battlefield medicine mean more soldiers are surviving bomb blasts that would have killed them in previous wars, the explosions are leaving some of them with permanent wounds. Mild traumatic brain injuries are difficult to detect as they leave behind no obvious signs of trauma.

Propublica has printed a great graphic depicting combat brain trauma.  An explosion generates a blast wave traveling faster than sound and creating a surge of high pressure immediately followed by a vacuum. Studies show that the blast wave shoots through armor and soldiers’ skulls and brains, even if it doesn’t draw blood.

Although the military has done quite a bit to recognize and treat TBI, a recent article by NPR and Propublica shows that much remains to be done.

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