Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) have been called the signature injury of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as nearly a fifth of all returning soldiers are diagnosed with brain injuries, PTSD, or a combination of the two. Last week, the Institute of Medicine released their comprehensive report hoping to understand the scope of these injuries and the long-term risks of blast exposure for service members.
The large majority of brain injury causing blasts experienced by soldiers came from improvised explosive devices (IED), which have wounded more than 33,000 veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. The IOM reports says that number is likely quite low considering the number of blast-related injuries observed.
Many soldiers hurt by IED’s are not physically wounded, but when the body absorbs a blast shock-wave it can cause extreme damage to the nervous system and body tissue.
The report was authored by a panel of over a dozen scientists and physicians, who came to the consensus that blast exposure puts veterans at long-term heightened risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, certain types of traumatic brain injury, growth hormone deficiency, and other reoccurring symptoms.
The report does show that there is little evidence linking blast-related brain injuries to the degenerative brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which has become associated with brain injuries in football and other contact sports.
As Forbes reports, the study urges for well-designed studies to examine how these blasts cause complex injuries to the body from both the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. They also suggested creating a registry of veterans exposed to blasts to better provide health care to those who may not develop health problems from the injury immediately.
The full report can be seen here.