Nearly 1,400 U.S. troops sustained concussions or mild brain injuries during a 10-month period in blasts in Afghanistan and Iraq that otherwise caused no obvious physical damage, according to a report in USA Today
That startling fact emerged after military health officials checked about 9,000 service members for possible brain injuries under a program that forces them to take a short break from combat when exposed to a blast or other jarring incident.
Although most of the troops were OK, USA Today reports that others exhibited signs of dizziness, headaches, and difficulty processing thoughts. As such, they remained sidelined from combat duty until their symptoms dissipated.
“The data we are getting from theater demonstrates how important it is to get to the root of the problem early in order to attack it," said Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who helped drive the policy.
All U.S. troops caught within about 165 feet of any blast, who might not otherwise have sought treatment in the past, must now be pulled from combat for 24 hours and examined for signs of concussion. The data cited in USA Today reflect incidents from August 2010, when the treatment plan for concussions was initiated, through June.
Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, a Pentagon health official, told the newspaper that it previously had been common practice for service members to try to shake off the effects of a blast and keep fighting.
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