Undiagnosed brain injury - the hidden legacy of Iraq

#1
The Ministry of Defence is conducting a major study into brain injury in troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan amid fears that thousands of soldiers may have suffered damage after being exposed to high-velocity explosions.

The US army says as many as 20% of its soldiers and marines have suffered "mild traumatic brain injury" (mTBI) from blows to the head or shockwaves caused by explosions. The condition, which can lead to memory loss, depression and anxiety, has been designated as one of four "signature injuries" of the Iraq conflict by the US department of defence, which is introducing a large-scale screening programme for troops returning from the frontline.

Defence officials were reluctant to extrapolate directly from the US experience, arguing that the science is still inconclusive and that the US and UK experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has been different. But the Guardian has learned that the government has put in place a series of measures - including a comprehensive screening process - to deal with what could be a 20-fold increase in troops with mTBI. If the most alarming US predictions are accurate, as many as 20,000 UK troops could be at risk.

Kit Malia, a cognitive rehabilitation therapist who will oversee the programme to treat TBI at Headley Court military rehabilitation centre in Surrey, said: "I think the issue is that we don't know whether the Americans are correct. But if the American figures are correct, this is massive. Absolutely massive."

Surgeon commodore Lionel Jarvis, director of medical policy at the MoD, said the UK is doing all it can to improve diagnosis and treatment of the condition and is "running very, very much in parallel" with the US. He added: "The only significant difference is that there is a much higher political profile on this in the US."

He said the MoD had drawn up a list of measures to help deal with mTBI that included circulating information to all ranks in the field on what symptoms to look out for; plans to screen all service personnel when they return from combat; a four-stage treatment programme at Headley Court; and research into body armour to improve protection for the brain.

Liam Fox, the Conservative defence spokesman, said: "It is a dereliction of duty, a failure of duty of care. They are already well behind the US in terms of identifying this disease. We have to ask again why should US troops be getting better care than British troops?"

The mTBI injury can occur when a soldier gets a blow on the head or is in close proximity to an explosion. The increased use of improvised explosive devices (IEDS) - roadside bombs - in Iraq and Afghanistan means more troops are at risk than in previous conflicts, and experts say that even the most advanced helmets cannot protect the brain from the shock waves.

A US neurologist and former doctor at the US department of veterans affairs, P Steven Macedo, said: "The enemy combatants are not trying to put missiles or bullets into our troops - they are trying to blow up their vehicles with IEDs. But the vehicles and the men wear heavy armour so what goes through them in many cases is the blast wave and we are beginning to see the impact this is having on the neurological make-up of our troops. This is the first war since the first world war where the major cause of injuries is blasts."

Advances in brain scanning have revealed that soldiers can sustain bruising and blood clots on the brain, even if there is no visible injury. If the condition is not diagnosed it can lead to long-term problems - from depression and anxiety to violence and relationship break-up.

Dr Macedo said US army doctors are reporting that up to 20% of soldiers coming home from Iraq have "blast injuries", with 15% of those never recovering. "Someone suffering from this will still be able to use a knife and fork, still be able to talk and walk but they may struggle with bad moods, memory problems or become easily agitated. It is like a computer which is not running programmes properly: you can function but not as quickly or effectively as before."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/military/story/0,,2200330,00.html
 
#2
Basically they are "punch drunk" but without the punching?
 
B

Brandt

Guest
#3
Thanks Armchair, I was going to post this article- it makes for very interesting reading and should hopefully prompt a wider debate on the subject.
 
#5
Er, that's what I said.

Punch Drunk is a state boxers can get in after one too many slaps on the head.

They exhibit the same symptoms and aren't "dazed" either, they may be at the time of punching but not neccesarily days after, although they still have the brain injuries.

They often have slowed responses too, and at worst their speech may be slurred as if they ARE actully drunk (hence the name).
 
#6
Brain damage from being too close to explosions,
Now I have an excuse for being a muppet. :p
 
#8
I had an interview with Matthew Taylor two weeks ago. Reference the Medical Discharge / War Pensions Idea (it's in the Charity and Welfare forum). The fact of this issue is, we have a very bad record within the UK for looking after our physically injured soldiers, so what chance has a mentally injured soldier got?

Matthew, has done an awful lot of research into this area, and although I would agree that he is correct about his findings, getting the MoD to acknowledge this is an issue when they still dispute Gulf War Syndrone, will be near-on impossible.


Regards

Hitback
 
#9
armchair_jihad said:
The Ministry of Defence is conducting a major study into brain injury in troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan amid fears that thousands of soldiers may have suffered damage after being exposed to high-velocity explosions.

The US army says as many as 20% of its soldiers and marines have suffered "mild traumatic brain injury" (mTBI) from blows to the head or shockwaves caused by explosions. The condition, which can lead to memory loss, depression and anxiety, has been designated as one of four "signature injuries" of the Iraq conflict by the US department of defence, which is introducing a large-scale screening programme for troops returning from the frontline.


He said the MoD had drawn up a list of measures to help deal with mTBI that included circulating information to all ranks in the field on what symptoms to look out for; plans to screen all service personnel when they return from combat; a four-stage treatment programme at Headley Court; and research into body armour to improve protection for the brain.

Liam Fox, the Conservative defence spokesman, said: "It is a dereliction of duty, a failure of duty of care. They are already well behind the US in terms of identifying this disease. We have to ask again why should US troops be getting better care than British troops?"


Advances in brain scanning have revealed that soldiers can sustain bruising and blood clots on the brain, even if there is no visible injury. If the condition is not diagnosed it can lead to long-term problems - from depression and anxiety to violence and relationship break-up.

"Someone suffering from this will still be able to use a knife and fork, still be able to talk and walk but they may struggle with bad moods, memory problems or become easily agitated. It is like a computer which is not running programmes properly: you can function but not as quickly or effectively as before."


How strange......all the signs and symptoms appear to be very similar to those of post traumatic stress disorder......is there link....or a potential to "newly diagnose" an already taboo condition..

discuss




Medders
 
#10
Ahh Liam Fox, the voice of reason. Actually just a politician who will say anything to anybody if it means scoring some points. As the Defence spokesman for the Conservatives his comments are unhelpful and show a complete lack of understanding of the situation.

At the danger of moving slightly outside of my box (see the name for a clue what I do!) this is not new information. The US studies are contested with huge amounts of research going on to finding out if this really is a problem. As I said both internally and internationally thought is divided. It might just be blast \ helmet \ head related or it could be PTSD; or, and sorry to the ambulance chasers, it maybe unproven or non-existent.

The US work is expansive, often fuelled by lawyers, but worth getting our hands on. UK watches this, and has been since it first came up (which was ages before the press got hold of it). International work was already being done in this area as ballistic materials in helmets get close to being able to stop AK rounds. The transmitted shock to the head and neck was being assessed to understand the issues. This is a follow on.

Before people assess every US study and believe every Politian be a bit critical. For a start think what the transmitted blast wave has to travel through; US helmets have very different characteristics to ours so it would reason that the effects will be different. I have no vested interest in this field but see what’s going on and 75% of what’s being written is rubbish. Prudent advice while medical research goes on does not constitute proof of a 'disease'.

If Politian’s want to help perhaps they can convince our winged brethren to dump the Para helmet in favour of something ballisticaly better; such as a paper hat. That should get a response!
 
#11
Oh dear armchair jihad, beaten at your own tedious slash and paste game.

Already done

You clearly can't offer an opinion, never having been near an explosion - so whats your excuse for being brain dead?
 
#12
Flying Felix said:
Brain damage from being too close to explosions,
Now I have an excuse for being a muppet. :p
But you have the choice of not being too close.
 
#15
W. anchor
If being to close to explosions then how did we survive WW2 and the Blitz
We didn't survive unscathed as anyone growing up in the fifties can tell you.
Woman used to complain about their nerves. Men of course didn't complain, wasn't allowed but they suffered from their 'nerves' as well.
Of course no one mentioned why they suffered nerve troubles. It would have been un Churchillian to do so. But some kids aren't stupid. Some of them could see the cause right enough even if the adults weren't going to talk about it.
Back in the fifties there were still plenty of women around who taking a leaf from old Queen Vic always wore black having lost a husband in the first world war.
The effects of war have long run outs whether one is victorious or not.
 
#17
The NFL has been funding dodgy research to undermine concern about brain injury (the MOD also seems keen on researchers who emphasise the problem with those suffering from brain injury not being positive enough about it). Now some of these rich ex-players are looking for compensation and accountability, and have the money to push for an alternative examination of the evidence - this could help here too. US compensation claims against tobacco companies were a really important part of pushing people to realise the harm done by smoking, and making it impossible to cover up/obfuscate the evidence.
 

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