When scientists presented conclusive evidence that the brain requires rest after an injury, and that a second injury while recovering from the first can cause much more serious damage, U.S. Military officials took notice and implemented changes almost immediately. The Pentagon will now remove soldiers exposed to roadside bomb blasts from combat for 24 hours, whether they show signs of injury or not.
The required 24 hiatus from combat will allow the soldiers to be examined for symptoms of traumatic brain injury, an article in the San Bernardino Sun reported. The soldiers' short-term memory and concentration skills will be tested, and doctors will check for double vision and ringing ears, among other symptoms. Part of the government's recent attention toward brain injuries among troops relates to a 2008 RAND Corporation study revealing that almost 20 percent of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan had suffered some form of traumatic brain injury, the article continued.
The director of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center, David Hovda, consults with the Pentagon on brain injuries. Hovda's take on brain injuries is more serious than most. He suggests that anytime you hit your head, it could result in a very mild traumatic brain injury, even if it is never diagnosed as such. Dr. David Patterson of Casa Colina Centers for Rehabilitation said, 'traumatic brain injury can be thought of as any temporary alteration in mental status,' the article reported.
Hovda went on to describe in detail what happens in the brain after an injury has taken place. He said, 'Fluids leave the brain and need to be pumped back in, but the brain's energy producing chemistry has been beaten down, so that it is unable to operate the needed pumps. It can take a few days or a few weeks for the brain to recover,' the Sun reported. He touted the healing powers of the brain, but added that if another injury occurs during the delicate recovery period, it may never fully recover.
The Pentagon announced the new changes in brain injury protocol last week, and troops are already being trained in their implementation. While the occurrence of roadside bombs shows no sign of decreasing, the new combat rules will allow those exposed a far greater chance of full recovery from their injuries.
Steinberg, Jim. (March 10, 2010) 'Military services beginning new focus on traumatic brain injuries.' Retreived on March 12, 2010 from the San Bernardino Sun Web site: http://www.sbsun.com/living/ci_14650196